“What kind of worm is this? Please let me know,” asks this reader in his submission. The worm our reader is referring to is an off-white, semi-transparent color, with a dark brown, bulbous head and a tubular body.
Besides this photograph, which is of excellent quality, our reader does not provide more context than what is quoted above. Because of this, it is difficult to say exactly which of the generic white larvae this could be. That said, of the ones that typically enter homes, we think this is either a pantry moth larva or a webbing clothes moth larva. These are both household pests that affect different areas of one’s home; the pantry moth tends to stick to the kitchen and pantry, while the webbing clothes moth haunts the closets, attics, taxidermy and pretty much any areas where there are animal-based materials.
The pantry moth, also known as the Indianmeal moth, is tiny (about 3/5-inch) and a variety of shades of brown. In actual fact, upon close inspection, its wings are quite interesting, if not somewhat beautiful to behold. The body of the moth is split into three color segments; the burgundy head, a beige middle section and then the gold and dark brown-striped tips of its wings. Its larvae look exactly like this one in the photograph, and it is our opinion that this is most likely a pantry moth larva. However, for the sake of being sure, we will also consider the possibility of it being a webbing clothes moth larva. The adult webbing clothes moth is also small in size (approximately 4/5-inch) but is a silvery-white color, with a light brown head. Its larvae also look like the one our reader photographed, though oftentimes they are less yellowish in color and more of a chalky white.
Unfortunately, when homes experience infestations of these moth larvae, significant damage can be done by either species. That is not to say our reader is experiencing an infestation. These larvae can be brought in from external sources and did not necessarily hatch within the home. In fact, pantry moth larvae are most often brought in from the grocery store. Pantry moth larvae will feed on any grain-based foods in the kitchen and pantry, as well as dog food and nuts. They can thus already be present (usually in egg form) inside the products one buys from the store. Infestations of them are usually not noticed until they have already ruined a piece of food, after which it is no longer safe to eat. Combating a pantry moth larvae infestation necessitates freezing and consequently throwing out infested foods, cleaning out pantries and kitchen cupboards, and storing at-risk food items in sealed containers.
Webbing clothes moth larvae can also be brought in from the outside, usually on clothing (especially second-hand clothing), as this is primarily what they feed on. Any product that is even partially made from animal materials is game for clothes moth larvae, but so is loose hair, fur or feathers. To eliminate webbing clothes moth larvae one must implement a strict and consistent cleaning routine that involves vacuuming up the source of the infestation, laundering infested (and potentially infested) articles of clothing, steam-cleaning carpets, and storing animal-based garments and other products in airtight containers.
If our reader does think she may be experiencing an infestation and wants more in-depth information on either species of moth larva, we recommend that she checks out this past article on pantry moth larvae or this one on webbing clothes moth larvae. To find out specifically which one she is dealing with, we recommend that our reader check for the source of the infestation; if the larvae are most concentrated in the kitchen, they are most likely pantry moth larvae, but if they are most concentrated somewhere where they would have access to animal-based textiles, then they are probably webbing clothes moth larvae.
To conclude, the “worm” our reader found is either a pantry moth larva or webbing clothes moth larva. Neither species of larva is directly harmful to humans, but they are harmful to the home. For that reason, we urge our reader to search for more larvae and find out if this is an infestation as soon as possible so that she can deal with the problem before it gets out of hand. We hope that we answered our reader’s question sufficiently and that this article proves helpful.