“I have these teeny, tiny worms hanging above my kitchen stove top,” writes this reader about the yellow-white, worm-like creature pictured below. “They are so tiny you can barely see them hanging. What are they?” Based on the photo, as well as the location in which the creature was found, we would say this is likely a pantry moth larva, otherwise known as the Indianmeal moth caterpillar. These critters are not directly harmful to humans or pets, so our reader need not worry about her health. That said, when the infest foods, they do render them inedible, as they leave shed skins and faecal matter behind.
As we have alluded to, pantry moth caterpillars like to feed on the food in people’s kitchens, specifically the dried goods typically stored in a pantry (hence the name). Such foods include grains, rice, cereal, pet food, and more. Like most moth species, pantry moth caterpillars can produce webbing, or ‘silk’, and that is likely what these caterpillars have been hanging from. Why do they do this? In the wild, the caterpillars will hang from their webs when they need a quick escape from a predator. Similarly, maybe something happened in our reader’s kitchen that sent the caterpillars into fight or flight.
Seeing as our reader found multiple caterpillars, it is possible she is experiencing an infestation. To control and eliminate the infestation, it is vital to throw out any infested foods, and to discard them in a bin outside. If she throws the food out in her indoor garbage can, the infestation will just continue inside the home and keep spreading. On top of that, if there are any dried food goods near the infested foods that are susceptible to the infestation (eg: they were not stored in air tight containers, but rather left in their packaging, which has holes or gaps through which the caterpillars could crawl), then she can either throw away this food too, or freeze it for a minimum of 48 hours to kill any potential eggs that the moth may have left behind. To prevent future invasions, keeping dried foods in airtight containers goes a long way, as it prevents the moths from laying their eggs in the food.
In conclusion, we think our reader found pantry moth caterpillars. They are not dangerous per se, but they can render food inedible and pose quite the nuisance if the infestation gets out of hand. We hope this helps and we wish our reader the very best!
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