Maggots in Your House

We were recently sent a question about small white worms, which a reader has been finding around his house. Of course, the reader wanted to know what these small, white worms are. He also sent us a picture, helping us better identify the worm in question. In this particular instance, we are fairly sure our reader didn’t find a worm at all, but rather a maggot. More precisely, he found maggots, as there are two small creatures in the picture we were sent. Why do we think he found maggots?

Before explaining our rational, let’s take a look at the reader’s picture. It’s always nice to know what we’re talking about right from the start.

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As you can see, the creatures pictured above are a yellowish, white color, which is to say they are the color of maggots. Although it’s hard to figure out precisely how large these creatures are without some sort of scale in the picture, they seem small. (The picture is somewhat blurred, which perhaps means that the camera is zoomed in pretty far.) Maggots are in fact quite small, generally around an eighth to a quarter of an inch in length. They move in wiggling motion, which is one reason they are commonly mistaken for worms. (Although, as we are fond of pointing out, the word “worm” is not a scientifically precise term, as it refers to an obsolete taxon. There is, however, an everyday sense of “worm,” and maggots generally wouldn’t be covered by this term.)

So, what are maggots? They are the larvae – i.e., the immature form – of the common housefly. Before maturing into their adult form, maggots feed on organic waste, like decayed food. For this reason, they are often found in moist, unsanitary places, and of course some of these places could be around one’s house. If you want to get rid of maggots, the best approach is simply to thoroughly clean places that are conducive to maggot life. Some places are inevitably unsanitary, like trash cans, so these should be sealed so that houseflies cannot lay their eggs (which of course mature into maggots) in them.

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It’s of course possible that we are mistaking the creature pictured above for maggots, but everything seems to point to this answer. The creatures in the picture look like maggots, and it’s not at all uncommon to find maggots around the house. We’re also quite familiar with maggot-related questions because we receive them all the time. You might call us reluctant experts on the subject, although ‘expert’ in the “lots of experience” sense, not in the academically trained sense.

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