A small, pink worm was found in this reader’s bread one morning. She wonders if we can tell her what the worm is and if its presence is any indication that she might have a pest problem, or if it is more likely that this is a one-time occurrence.
The creature in question is in fact an Indianmeal moth larva, better known as a pantry moth larva. These larvae are common household pests that feed on stored food products, and can be found all across the United States in homes and grocery stores alike. Pantry moth larvae stick to grains, seeds, nuts, spices, dried fruit and pet food. Mature larvae of the pantry moth tend to be half-an-inch in length, and their color actually varies depending on what they are primarily feeding on. They can be white, green, pink, or brown. In addition to this, pantry moth larvae have five sets of prolegs that they use to walk the distances they need to cover to find somewhere appropriate to pupate.
Pantry moths can lay up to 400 eggs individually, and will usually pick the larval food sources as the spot for egg-deposition. Subsequently, it can take the larvae a mere few hours to settle themselves in a food source following their hatching. For these reasons, infestations of pantry moths can become quite serious, or at the very least, difficult to control. It is likewise therefore very unlikely that this is a one-time thing for our reader, as it is highly uncommon for a pantry moth to lay just one egg on one source and then move on. Of course, it is possible the larvae are just on this bread, if they were discovered on the bread immediately upon purchase, and they have not been found elsewhere in our reader’s kitchen.
Regardless, there are some key steps to controlling a pantry moth infestation. Firstly, throw away all infested products, preferably somewhere one can recycle away from one’s home. Throwing them in the garbage can inside one’s home would be fruitless as they could just mature in there and repeat the whole process. If this is not possible, then it is possible to freeze or heat the products to extreme temperatures to eradicate the organisms prior to throwing them out. Secondly, refrigerating all food products that are supposed to be refrigerated is vital to keeping Indianmeal moths from being attracted to the food sources as they prefer temperatures of 68-86°F. Thirdly, it is important to make sure that all food products that are prone to pantry moth infestations are properly sealed, including pet foods.
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To conclude, the creatures our reader found were larvae of the pantry/Indianmeal moth. Their presence is likely an indication of a pest problem, and so our reader should be circumspect in regards to her stored foods and be on the lookout for more larvae.