what are these worms?

foodonastumpNovember 22, 2009

I just made avgolemono and when I poured the orzo in a bunch of little worms floated to the top. I managed to fish most of them out since they seemed to float, probably found about a dozen total. They were about the size of uncooked long grain rice, white with a black tip. The orzo was previously opened, but then again pasta boxes aren't sealed to begin with.

What are they? And more importantly, what should I do? I think the only open or unsealed items in my pantry are pasta, rice, bread crumbs, cereal, flour. Not a ton of it so it wouldn't break the bank to toss it all. But even if I do, how can I be sure to rid my pantry of the critters? Empty it out and spray the crap out of it? With what?

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My guess is mealworms....

Here is a link that might be useful: Mealworms wikipedia

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 7:20PM
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Fori is not pleased

Larvae are tricky to ID. It's easiest to rear them to adulthood and ID the adults.

If you can get a really good picture I'll give it a shot, but I'm gonna guess either moth larvae or beetle larvae.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 7:25PM
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Remind me not to eat pasta at your house....
Toss the stuff and then buy some cheap bulk bay leaves and spread around on your "dry goods" shelves. Looks messy as hell but really repels those bugs.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 7:27PM
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There's an allowable "filth" level for all foods. Especially spices and herbs, BTW. It happens to all of us at times.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:01PM
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I'd rather have mealworms than bug spray, any day of the week. You can sift out the mealworms.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:03PM
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Mealybugs/worms. They're in almost all grain products.
That's why I freeze almost all grains that I buy for at least 24 hours.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:08PM
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I had some kind of flour moth or weevil, not sure which, thing happen earlier this year. I discovered it on the day the deep freezer was delivered. Now that I have the extra space I just keep everything in the freezer. Crackers, chips, cereal, flours, pastas, beans, sugar, dog and cat food, etc.

I tossed everything in my pantry because that kind of thing just grosses me way out and weevils can crawl/fly around. I have a lot more pantry space now, though. I didn't spray anything, I just cleaned the pantry shelves and walls. If they don't have anything to live in I guess they just die because I haven't seen any since.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:26PM
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OMG, who cares what they are!! I'm going to have nightmares!!!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:26PM
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Here you go fori, not a really good picture because I lost the charger to my good camera and have been making due with my phone. :-( Note these are parboiled so I'm not sure if that affected size. ;-)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:36PM
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Ewwww! Pooy Pooy parf! I think I eaten those before!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:50PM
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The bay leafs really work I have them in all my pantry cabinets and my baking drawers. I stick flour, rice and grains in the freezer for a few days before going in the pantry. When we were building our first house we rented a place that looked clean but I found roaches in the pantry along with some dry dog food. An older gal I worked with told me to get fresh cucumbers and peel them and put the peels around the kitchen baseboard and pantry. I thought she was nuts but after just 1 day I never saw a roach again in that house. She was the one who told me about the bay leaf thing and I have used them every since.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:53PM
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Just to confirm, you tossed out the soup. You didn't eat it right?


    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 9:34PM
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Good to hear that the little worms floated to the top!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 9:37PM
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Would it have been gross had I ate it? Seems others are risking eating freeze-killed critters. What's the difference?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 9:38PM
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Funny how the picture of the worms don't bother me much, but the drawing of the beetle on Wiki got to me.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 9:40PM
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Some people eat meal worms. Good protien intake. LOL !!!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 9:42PM
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I had the same problem in my pantry. (A bulk food product was the culprit.) I ended up discarding everything, washing out the entire pantry with a water+bleach solution (in case there were eggs), then replacing the products.

You can kill larvae by baking dry foods/noodles, etc. in the oven, if you choose. Freezing also works.

I chose to throw everything out because by the time I discovered what was wrong it was too infested to even contemplate.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 10:36PM
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Fori is not pleased

Do they have stumpy faux legs behind the 6 real ones, you know, like caterpillars? They kind of look like they do, but they've been cooked so...

If they're caterpillars, you would have seen the moths around if you're infested (weevils and other beetles can be more stealthy). It's really possible since you haven't seen any adult insects that the eggs were in the orzo before you got it, so there will be no more critters unless some of the critters walked out of the box and into another, pupate, hook up, and breeeed.

They are certainly nutritious, but the poop they generate getting to be that size is something I'd like to avoid.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 10:38PM
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My educated guess is pantry moth larvae.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 11:15PM
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Oh...I do hope you tossed the soup.

Yep, I know we probably have all eaten our share of various larvi (is the the plural?). But unseen. Unseen is definitely better.

(((Shuddering at the thought of skimming them off the top and serving the soup))) Sorry, I'm a lightweight.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 11:23PM
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Glad to see whole worms.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 12:17AM
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You know what's funny, 99% of the time someone posts here asking, "Is it ok?" after forgetting something on the counter for hours or going past an expiration date, my gut reaction is, "Toss it!!!" while everyone else is saying it's fine. But here, since the little guys floated, and after skimming about a dozen and carefully looking through the soup and not finding more, I didn't give a second thought to eating it.

That said, I'll be cleaning out my pantry. Is new/sealed cereal safe? That's the only thing that would be pricey to replace - got a bunch of it on sale a couple weeks ago.

Fori, I don't know if they had those leggy things. Too late to look now. Have not had moths in the house, and so far have not seen signs of them in any other packages that were right next to the orzo.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 4:31AM
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It's funny, our reactions to this. Most of us wouldn't hesitate to eat a fresh trout, and it lives on bugs, worms, and other (smaller) fish. These bugs, worms and smaller fish live on even less palatable foods. We eat vegetables fertilized with cow poop and lobsters and crabs that feed on God only knows what sea-carrion.

But a worm born from an egg laid in our pasta, that has consumed nothing but our pasta for it's whole life, and is made of nothing but our pasta and the dna of it's mommy and daddy bug (of whatever kind) grosses us out.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 7:25AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Do all you people who freeze stuff first, pasta too?
I've never had a problem with pasta before.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 7:34AM
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I freeze flour and pasta that I know I won't be able to use up in a reasonable length of time. I also keep nuts in the freezer, not that they get bugs, but they just stay fresher.

Yeah, fish and lobsters and stuff "live off" bugs and other critters, but the difference is they digest it! I just can't eat anything that grosses me out.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 8:53AM
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Good thing we didn't live a hundred years ago! Things like this happened all the time; folks did what FOAS did and ate it. I do it now, if it happens, which is very rarely.

I think tossing what's in the pantry and sanitizing is of no use whatsoever. The eggs come in with the product; when they hatch in the product while sitting on your shelf, the larva are happy living wherever they do...in a bag, box, whatever. The larva are probably partial to the product they are in. Maybe I've just been lucky, since I've never seen an infestation that got out of its bag.

When you freeze flour, rice, etc., do you remove the amount you need for the recipe and return the rest to the freezer? Don't you worry about eating unhatched eggs?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 10:16AM
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Fori is not pleased

It's the poop I tell ya! You can remove the critters from your soup, but the poop from when they were a tiny egg up to quarter inch jumbo larvae is in there too!

Sherrmann, I think freezing is to kill anybody that is in there--once it's been frozen, no worries from that particular product. You jut eat the eggs. They're small. They don't affect the flavor like frass can.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 12:12PM
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Fori is not pleased

..I don't freeze anything for insects, but do for stuff I use slowly and want to keep fresher (big bags of nuts, flaxmeal, etc.).

I would start if I had an infestation, though (been there!), but one contaminated box is just one bad package, not a serious thing.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 12:21PM
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I tend to keep almost everything that doesn't come in a jar in screw top containers or heavy duty zip lock bags in snap lid "shoeboxes", and so haven't had a bug infestation for a long, long time other than in a bag of rice I bought in an Asian market once. It developed some very tiny black bugs of some kind that floated quite nicely when I washed it, so I just made sure I washed it. I can't get too worked up about bugs in my food, especially ones that have lived their whole life in it. I mean, they can't possibly have inimical germs or bacteria, and people the world over consume many varieties of insects and worms on purpose and with relish, so they can't be all that disgusting. I don't worry about the "poop" either, as it can't be but as clean as the bugs themselves are.

However, I do scruple at serving anything that was "bugged" to guests, as I figure that they might not be as relaxed about it as I.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 12:36PM
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After a horrible infestation with pantry moths (from nuts I bought at Trader Joe's)I now store everything in plastic containers with tight fitting lids.I threw out lots of lots of nuts, dried fruits, and grains...AND chocolates. the little buggers even got into the closed and sealed bags they came in. Finding those larvae made me sick. And once, I opened a flour container only to have a moth fly out.
Nasty, nasty, nasty. I threw lots and lots of dollars worth of food away, then immediately went to the store and bought secure containers. (I even had some of the little creeps nestled into the lid ridges of glass containers with screw on lids)
The soup? No way I would have eaten it. However, if it didn't bother you, it's not a big deal.
I might pick something up off the floor (of my own home) that I dropped and pop it into my mouth. Others might get sick even thinking of this. To each his/her own.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 1:31PM
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I use glass jars to store almost everything -- but some pasta is in boxes. Now you have me worried.
With glass jars you can see what's crawling through your cornmeal and take it out of the house to toss it. All you need is one flight of moths, ecstatic to be free in your cabinets, and you won't risk it again.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 1:44PM
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FOAS, did you show your wife?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 1:51PM
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I've dumped a box of pasta into boiling water and had the "skins" of those little brown mealworm type buggers float up, but I've not found any actual live worms in any pasta. I guess whatever I had hatched and pupated and just the empty shells or skins were left behind. I find the same exact things when I dig into a box of crap I've had in storage a long time. Stuff that isn't clothing, so I didn't throw any mothballs in it, so they could be similar to clothes moths as well. Once in a while I find the buggie itself, but mostly I tend to find the empty husks/skins - wonder what the correct term for that is?

They say we all eat so many insects a year that we're not even aware of. If you're eating black pepper you didn't grind yourself, you're eating ground insects and rodent poop along with your pepper, so I guess that saying "ignorance is bliss" is very true! I don't mind eating a bug - as long as I don't know I'm eating it lol!!


    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 1:57PM
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Yes, all commercially canned and prepared food items are allowed a certain percentage of particulate matter, so if you eat canned tomatoes or pizza sauce or canned vegetables or use biscuit mix or canned soup or frozen dinners or nearly anything else, you are getting the rodent hair, the insects, the feces of various creatures. You just don't find it whole because it's processed.

FOAS, I wouldn't have hesitated to eat the soup, but as Rachel pointed out, I wouldn't feed it to guests who might not be as relaxed about such things.

I also subscribe to the bay leaf remedy, and once I had an infestation of meal moths that some handy-dandy traps from Gardens Alive took care of in short order.

All of my beans, rice, cornmeal, etc, is kept in those old blue Ball canning jars with lids, because I like the way they look and I can see what's in them. Chocolate chips and coconut too, but nuts go in the freezer so they don't get rancid.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 2:18PM
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Well I went through about 15-20 pound of pasta as I threw them out to see how bad it was. I found one on a sheet of lasagna, two in a box of penne, and one in a box of rotini. Actually cooked my other box of orzo, nothing. The majority of my pasta was easy stuff to check like spaghetti and linguini and I found none in those (except the one in the lasagna) so I'm being cautiously optimistic that it's a relatively small problem and not an infestation. I also sifted through some old flour, nothing.

Although I didn't take the time to check them, I also got rid of all my rices except one big bag that I just opened which is now in the freezer, and threw out my bread crumbs and open cereal.

Later today I'll take everything out of the pantry and wipe it down with a bleach solution. It might be an exercize in futility but it'll make me feel better.

Chase - I've often wondered if my wife "spies" on me here. If I'm not posting tomorrow the answer is yes, and please call the police.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 2:19PM
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With international import/export of food stuff, we will see lots more new insects.

I believe (in NYC) these are foreign moths, which tend to infest starchy foods.

It appears that the eggs are not killed by freezing, only by baking.

It appears that the moths are not attracted by light, so insect zappers do not work.

It appears that they can eat thru thin plastic bags.

You should kill off the flying moths otherwise you will always have the problem.

One way to kill them off is to get these cheap ($10.00) electronic swatters you can get on eBay. You should get one anyway to kill mosquitoes and flies that get into the house.

Fun to use by kids. Zap! Spark! And they are vaporized.

And BTW, I don't throw food away because of this, unless the taste, and nutritional value have changed. The dead worms float to the top when you wash the food.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 2:31PM
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See what you started !!! You are a troublemaker LOL !!!
Glad I'm not like you.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 2:44PM
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Copy & Paste.......You could make these with them little Devils !!! I say cover them with Chocolate, and you will have yourself a Delicacy. LOL Diana55

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 3:05PM
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Feed the larvae to the birds outside....they love them!

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 5:56PM
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"Do we have any soup left?"

"No, sorry."

"YOU ATE IT ALL FOR LUNCH?!?!? I was looking forward to it all day. It was so delicious!"

Either she doesn't spy on me here or she's a MUCH better actress than I know.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 7:24PM
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Note these are parboiledcolor="red">

OMG!! This should have come with a warning. I just spat tea all over the screen. And the rest of the thread LOL

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 10:14PM
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The thing about mealy worms is, they build webs if they reach adulthood, and lay eggs in them. I opened a box of rice once, only to have moths fly out (eww, indeed), and then saw many tiny webs all in the box! I even called the company about it, as I had just bought the box the day before.

The rep said this is very common with any dry goods except oatmeal, of all things -- she said the oatmeal boxes are made in such a way that keeps the larvae out of them at the factories. (And, why can't all packages be made that way, I'd like to know???)

Since then, I automatically put all flour, pasta, rice, etc, in the freezer when I get home from the grocery store, and leave it there at least 48 hours before I use it. I haven't seen any larvae, moths, or webs in those packages.

However, the afore-mentioned rice box caused quite an infestation in our kitchen, as the moths which flew out built tiny webs under all the kitchen cabinets, which I did not notice for some time. By the time I found them (just a few weeks later), we had little moths flying all over our house! It was summertime, so at first I had thought they were flying in from outside.

I ended up going to a website to find out how to get rid of them. It was a painstaking process -- emptying out all the cupboards, vacuuming them well (especially in all crevices), then washing them out with a mixture of hot water and bleach, then letting them dry completely before putting everything back in the cupboards.

Since then, we have not seen any more larvae, webs, or mealy moths! I hope never to see any again.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 10:34PM
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Bumblebeez, Pasta seldom stays in our house long enough for me to freeze it, but, yeah, if it's orzo or other small pasta that I won't use quickly, I do.

And I don't have a lot of freezer space, so, no, I don't leave it in there past the 48-72 hours.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 10:57PM
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I had those once. They came in a bag of rice. We threw out everything, cleaned and bleached the pantry several times over and they kept coming back. We tried all sort of moth/bug traps too without avail. We finally got rid of them with a tip I found in a household hints book. This alone was worth the price of the book.

It sounds bizarre, butÂ
Get a large package of Spearmint gum, I mean a BIG package, like you get at a Warehouse club. It has to be spearmint, other kinds wonÂt work. Scatter the individual sticks around the area. It is not necessary to unwrap each stick. We just put some on each shelf. Within 2-3 weeks (probably the length of their life cycle from egg to larva to moth) they were all gone. I donÂt know whether it kills them or drives them away. We now keep some sticks in there all the time for insurance.

Though we had to buy a second package: for some unknown reason I would find the kids walking out of the pantry chewing. Never knew them to be so fascinated with that room before.

Believe me, THIS WORKS.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 12:37AM
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Wheat weevils. When we harvest our wheat we store it in non-working chest freezers. I'm not into the chemical fumigation thing that commercial growers gas with. Air tight containers will prevent eggs from ever hatching. Sorry guys but just about all wheat products have eggs in them. However if you leave it in a box on the shelf well..... you're fishing critters out of your soup. So first off if you don't have freezer space make sure to keep it in air tight containers. Then if you need to leave it out once it's open then as LindaC said bay leaves. They work really good on mealy bugs, wheat weevils. etc. If you have trouble with ants use ground cinnamon. If that just reroutes them but not outside the house bait with instant grits. They will disappear forever in about 48 hours. They give the word stuffed a new meaning. I've never heard the ants explode but I think thats what happens as soon as they go for their daily trip to the water trough. Best thing is they all go together.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 12:51AM
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Okay, here's a true story to really gross you out. I heard an entymologist (bug guy)interviewed on NPR, and he told a story about a professor of his who would drive way out of his way to find restaurants that ground their own coffee beans. Absolutely wouldn't drink bagged ground coffee. Turns out he had worked for many years with cockroaches and had become so sensitized to them that he could no longer tolerate factory ground coffee. (You can figure out why.)

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 5:50AM
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