A reader wrote to us recently about some larvae in the ice machine of her company kitchen. The larvae are in the drain pipes of the ice machine, which raises the obvious question of how they managed to get into this tight space. The reader was also curious exactly what kind of larvae she was finding, although she never actually uses the word “larva” or “larvae.” (She only says “they look at wiggle like a worm,” which we are having trouble parsing. Maybe some sort of pun on “wiggle” and “little,” which means that “at” is supposed to be “a”?) Finally, and naturally enough, she wants to know how to get rid of the larvae in the ice machine. So, we are faced with three related questions: what are the larvae in the ice machine, how did they get in there, and how can one get rid of them?
First, here are a couple of pictures the reader submitted along with her question:
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While these are decent enough pictures that show the extent of the problem, they don’t tell us very much about the creature that our reader found (because we can’t really see what they look like). However, as we’ve been saying from the beginning, they do appear to be larvae, and the inside of a tube leading to an ice machine is in many ways an ideal place for larvae. It is likely a moist, protected environment, exactly what an insect looking to lay eggs might look for. Moreover, we have actually written about a similar problem twice before: we wrote an article about worms in an ice machine and also about small white worms with a black dot on the end, which were found in an ice machine as well. In both cases, we speculated that the “worms” (in the language of both readers) were actually larvae. The question, of course, is what kind of larvae.
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In those previous two articles, we thought that our readers might have found maggots, the larval form of certain species of fly (like the common housefly of the Brachycera suborder). This is definitely a possibility in this case, although we would need a clearer image to assess how plausible of a suggestion this is. Another possibility that comes to mind is a creature we have written about many times before, moth fly larvae. These are the small “worms” you sometimes find in toilets, and they are also found around drains in sinks and showers. (Indeed, moth flies are often called “drain flies.”) The truth of the matter is that larvae in the ice machine could be several different things and we simply don’t have enough information or clear enough pictures to formulate a confident suggestion.
That said, the exact species of larva our reader found isn’t necessarily crucial to know, as there are basic measures one can take to get rid of pests like this. In general, the goal is to make sure the infested area is made less hospitable to larvae, which first of all necessitates a thorough cleaning, preferably with some sort of antibacterial product. Larvae tend to settle in places where there is dead organic matter to feed on, so any potential food source must be eliminated during the cleaning process. (Hopefully an ice machine of all things isn’t filled with decaying matter, and we presume it isn’t, but it’s hard to know what has accumulated in the small tubes behind a machine – who knows when they were last cleaned?) It also needs to be determined if there is any obvious way the creatures are making their way into the machine. Of course, this is one of the topics we were asked to address, but it’s really hard to say how they might be getting into the ice machine tubes without inspecting the machine itself. Is one of the tubes potentially broken, thereby allowing a fly or some other type of other insect to lay its eggs in the tube? Is the ice machine door ever left open? This might not only allow insects in, but would also cause the ice to melt, thus creating more moisture and potentially stagnant water, which would make the machine and its connected tubes more attractive as a breeding ground.
Unfortunately, we don’t have too much concrete information to offer our reader – we aren’t exactly sure what she is finding, and we aren’t exactly sure how they got into the office ice machine. However, we provided what guidance we could, and hopefully this will help address the problem.