A reader recently asked us about some larvae she found in her home. She explained that she found a few on top of the bins where she stores food ingredients and some in the room where she stores dry food. The photograph she included shows two round worm-like organisms:
They have fat, segmented, off-white bodies with brown heads. Based on their appearance and where our reader found them, we believe these are pantry moth larvae.
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Pantry moth larvae, or Indian meal moth larvae, are extremely common household pests. While they aren’t considered to be dangerous from a health or safety standpoint, they are annoying household pests and can take over a kitchen and pantry if not taken seriously. Since our reader found these specimens in two different locations in her home, we encourage her to start the process of getting rid of them ASAP before they move to a third location. To get rid of the larvae, our reader can follow these steps:
- Eliminate the primary source. Although our reader didn’t mention finding larvae in food, that’s probably where most of them are camping out and coming from. Our reader will need to investigate all of the dry food items in her kitchen and pantry, looking for larvae as well as the webbing they leave behind. Anything that has been contaminated should be thrown out immediately.
- Clean! Once the primary food source has been removed, our reader will need to thoroughly clean her entire kitchen and pantry. Just wiping down the surfaces won’t be sufficient, since there could be eggs hiding in the cracks and corners. She should replace all of her shelf liners and wash all food containers, like jars and Tupperware. She might also want to throw out food in anything that can’t be washed, like cardboard, since there might be eggs hiding in the crevices that she can’t see. Finally, we encourage her to wash her trash can and recycling bin.
- Treat potentially infested food. While we recommend just throwing out anything that might be infested, she can also treat these food items to eliminate larvae and eggs. This can be done by baking the food for an hour in the oven at 140°F or higher, microwaving the food for 5 minutes on high, or putting the food in the freezer for a week.
- Be patient. It can take weeks or even months to get rid of a pantry moth larvae infestation. During that time we recommend that our reader clean daily and buy low quantities of food that she can store in airtight containers.
In conclusion, we believe the creatures our reader found in her home are pantry moth larvae. These food pests can be quite a nuisance so we encourage our reader to start following the steps to eliminate them as soon as possible!