“We found these larvae on our kitchen floor,” says this reader, who asks if we can help identify said larvae. The larvae are an off-white color, with segmented bodies and a black dot where we assume their heads are.
In addition to these great photographs, our reader sent in a couple of videos which showcase how these legless critters move, which seems to be by rapidly contracting their bodies to twist and turn and inch across the ground. We think our reader is definitely correct in calling these larvae, and based on their appearance, as well as the location they were found in, we would say these are pantry moth larvae.
Pantry Moth Larva Crawling 1
Pantry moths, also known as Indianmeal moths, are common household pests. The adult moth is small, brown or black (with a big white stripe across the upper middle of its wings) and looks more papery than furry, as opposed to other species of moths. The mother moth will lay her eggs in some kind of food product, where the eggs will hatch and the larvae can begin their feeding. These food items usually consist of grains, nuts, oatmeal, flour and other dry foods, but other foods can also be contaminated, such as bread or some fruit. Infestations of the larvae are usually quite noticeable, with masses of eggs and cases of silk usually being left behind on the food they damage.
There has been no known danger to accidentally consuming food with pantry moth larvae or eggs on it, but it is nonetheless not something one wants to do. To begin with, our reader should simply move any roaming larvae outside, as there is no use killing them if they are not on his food. He will then want to check for any contaminated food. Despite pantry moths having a preference of the aforementioned dry food products, we advise that he checks everything anyway, and that he does so thoroughly. Naturally, he should then throw out any contaminated foods, at least where the infestation has caused a significant amount of damage and the food is no longer edible. However, before he throws out anything, he should consider freezing the infested food for four days to eliminate any potential eggs or larvae that may be present. Otherwise, the infestation could just continue spreading inside the trash can/compost bin. When it comes to food products that are at risk of infestation, but no infestation is visible, freezing the food for the same amount of time after bringing it home from the grocery store is also a good idea. Then he can sift through the product and see if there are any organisms present.
Unfortunately, there is often not much one can do to prevent infestations. While ensuring the quality of window screens and sealing cracks in walling and flooring will prevent any adult pantry moths from flying in and laying eggs, most infestations occur because eggs are already present on the food when bought from the grocery store. What we can advise doing is storing grains, cereals, flour and similar foods in airtight mason jars, plastic bins, or other types of containers. This will isolate the food product and prevent other products in one’s pantry from also becoming infested. If one also has dog food or bird seed, then these are also likely places for contamination! We recommend making sure that dog food is also safely stored and that one’s bird feeder does not have holes big enough for a moth to crawl through and lay eggs.
To conclude, the larvae our reader found on his kitchen floor are pantry moth larvae. They are not directly harmful to humans or pets, but they can contaminate their food sources, making them inedible. For that reason, we recommend applying the controlling measures listed above. If our reader does this, in addition to moving the roaming larvae outside when he finds them, we are sure he will be rid of these critters in no time.