We received a question from a reader recently about a small maggot, or something like a maggot, that he found in his bathroom. The reader’s email to us does a decent job covering his situation, so we’ll quote it in full (with the addition of several articles, definite and indefinite): “This tiny white maggoty looking worm with light pinkish head and tail was on the edge of my bathroom sink this morning. My shitzu sleeps with me. Maybe it crawled on me in the night and fell off me at the sink? He goes potty in a woodsy area. I know there are chiggers he brings in. I’m in west central Missouri. Just north of Kansas City and it’s the end of June. Can you identify? Thank you.”
What tiny maggot or maggot-like creature did our reader find?
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We’ll begin as always with the picture the reader submitted:
The creature is basically as described, although the head doesn’t really appear “light pinkish” to us. It looks more like a brown color, or basically a darker shade of the creature’s vaguely tannish body, but we don’t think this is terribly important. All that is worth noting is that the creature’s head is darker than its body, which is a characteristic of several insect larvae, which is what we think our reader found.
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If we understand our reader correctly, he seems to tentatively posit that his dog might be ultimately responsible for the larva in his bathroom. His thinking seems to be that his dog might picked up the creature in the “woodsy area,” and then the dog brought it into bed with him. The larvae then crawled onto the reader, who unwittingly transported the the larvae to the bathroom sink, where it was first seen.
We suppose this is possible, but it seems like a complex origin story, one that violates the law of parsimony and therefore shouldn’t be one’s initial postulate. The other thing we can say about our reader’s situation is that he definitely didn’t find a chigger, a type of mite in the Trombiculidae family. We are pretty certain the reader only mentions chiggers to illustrate why he thinks the larvae might have come from his dog, but we just want to make this point clear.
Of course, what the creature is is relevant to where it come from, so we’ll focus on the matter of identification, which is ultimately what our reader is interested in. Overall, the larva looks a lot like an Indian mealmoth larva, which have dark heads and light-colored bodies, but a bathroom is an unusual place to find one. They tend to infest grains – foods like cereal, flour, rice, and pasta – and thus if they are found in homes, they tend to turn up in pantries. (Indian mealmoths are often called pantry moths, in fact.) It’s possible one might have been relocated from a suitable habitat to the bathroom, particularly if the two locations aren’t far away, so perhaps our reader should check his pantry (if he has one) or another place where grains are located to see if he finds any more larvae.
The other possibility is that the larva was attracted to the bathroom environment itself, and in which case it is possible our reader did actually find a maggot, at least if one defines the word broadly as “any sort of fly larvae.” (The word is sometimes used more narrowly to refer only to the larval form of Brachyceran flies, like houseflies.) The most common fly larva people find in bathrooms is the moth fly larva, which we have written about many times before. The larvae tend to live in drains, where decaying organic matter accumulates. Adults lay eggs in this drain filth, to not mince words, and then larvae emerge about 48 hours later. They tend to stay in the drain itself, but occasionally they emerge, which is generally the only time people realize they have them. Moth fly larvae don’t look exactly like the creature above – their heads generally aren’t such a distinctly darker color – but the circumstances make these larvae a possibly. It is also possible our reader found another type of fly larvae because an adult found a favorable place to lay eggs around the bathroom sink. Several kinds of gnat larvae, for example, look a bit like the creature above, and lots of other fly larvae look similar.
Unfortunately, we can’t give our reader a specific answer, but we’ve given him a couple of possible avenues to pursue, and hopefully this is of some help.