We recently received this message from one of our readers, “For the past few months, I have had an infestation that caused me to throw away most of my pantry food. Since then I’ve stored all dried foods in the freezer in ziplock bags. I am now having to throw away all the food in my cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. I feel like I am going mad. Some of the creatures look like tiny maggots and some are thin like a piece of hair. They have managed to eat all of my chocolate ice cream, freezer ravioli, rice products, and even some canned food. I am at my wit’s end. Please help!”
At first, we thought she was probably dealing with pantry moth larvae. These specimens are extremely common household pests. They usually enter a home by means of a contaminated food product and then infest other nearby food items. Pantry moth larvae, also known as Indian meal moth larvae, feed on dried grains, cereals, nuts, and other pantry products. We believe our reader was likely at one point – if not still – dealing with these creatures. However, it sounds like the specimens she is dealing with are more intense than pantry moth larvae.
Though destructive and surely annoying, pantry moth larvae will die in the freezer. It sounds like the specimens our reader is dealing with don’t find the cold to be fatal. This detail stumps us quite a bit. We aren’t familiar with worms that can survive freezing temperatures that are also food pests. We do know of Listeria, parasitic bacteria that are known to survive in freezers, but these bacteria are microbial, which means they are too small to see with the unaided eye.
Usually, when readers are dealing with pantry moth larvae and kitchen pests we encourage them to thoroughly clean their kitchen, throw out all of their food, and start new. We know this isn’t ideal, but having a fresh start might be the trick to getting rid of these creatures. Since she has found specimens in her fridge, freezer, cupboards, and pantry, we think it would be best for her to dispose of everything. Once her kitchen is free of food, she can start cleaning. She should scrub out all of the cabinets and corners, wipe down all surfaces (including the inside of the fridge and freezer) and even clean her cupboards where she doesn’t store food! If this intense cleaning doesn’t get rid of the specimens, she might need to call in professional help.
Unfortunately, we don’t know what kind of creatures have taken over our reader’s kitchen. We know she is feeling distressed and we wish we could be more help. If any of our reader’s have experience dealing with this sort of thing we invite them to comment below.