A reader wrote to us a couple of days ago about some worms or larvae in an ice machine at work. The reader speculated the creatures in the ice machine might be maggots, which are the larvae of flies, but she acknowledged they could be regular worms too. The worms or larvae are coming from the supply line, and thus the reader questioned the efficacy of the suggested remedy for the problem: pouring bleach down the drain of the ice machine. However, the reader was primarily concerned with identifying the creatures in the ice machine, so we will focus on this question and not so much on the matter of getting rid of them (although this will be touched on as well).
It never ceases to amaze us how often we receive questions about incredibly similar problems. We have written about worms in ice machines and larvae in ice machines, and in another instance we speculated that a reader found maggots in an ice machine, the exact creature our reader thought she might have found. So, on four separate occasions, with the present case included, people have found worms or larvae in their ice machines and written to us. Evidently this is a reoccurring problem.
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While it is a little strange to receive so many questions about ice machines in particular, it isn’t totally surprising. If the temperature setting on this ice machine is a little high, some of the ice in the machine could melt, thereby giving rise to pools of stagnant water where eggs could be laid by a variety of different creatures (like flies). Larvae will shortly emerge from the eggs, leading to the common “worm/larva in ice machine” problem. Because of the scenario just presented, we think it is likely that the reader is dealing with larvae, and not worms, and in fact we have concluded the same every time we write about this topic. But what kind of larvae?
To help with our identification efforts, the reader sent us a picture of the creature that was found:
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Obviously, this isn’t the clearest image, and in fact it isn’t even clear what we are looking at. The reader said this is a “partial ‘worm’ piece,” so this isn’t the full creature, but even with this in mind it is hard to make sense of the picture. Is this most of the larva, or is it a small piece of one? Is the whitish grey thing part of the larva, or is that small black part (on the right side of the picture) what we are supposed to be looking at? Given our failure to grasp the basic content of this image, we obviously can’t put forward a definitive identification, but simply based on past experience we think our reader likely did find some sort of maggot or other fly larvae. (The word “maggot” can technically refer to the larval form of any fly, but it is generally used only to describe the larvae of Brachyceran flies, such as houseflies. Other fly larvae – e.g., moth fly larvae, which is also something our reader might have found – are generally not called “maggots.”)
Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information to offer a confident suggestion as to what our reader found, but we can offer a couple of notes about getting rid of the problem as we conclude. First, we share our reader’s skepticism that pouring bleach down the drain will take care of the problem, particularly if the issue is related to the supply line. And even if this is helpful, a serious cleaning of the machine is in order, as the reader acknowledged. Perhaps there is some way to flush out the machine and its intake system? Finally, the internal temperature of the machine should be monitored to make sure that the ice doesn’t melt and create environments conducive to larvae. This advice applies regardless of exactly what our reader is finding, so hopefully we’ve helped with the problem in some small way.