What is this worm or larva I found in my walls

What is this worm or larva I found in my walls

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We were recently doing some major remodeling in our 1920s era home and found what looks like a nest of small meal worms. I am wondering if anybody can identify them! Here are some photos: Our home is in Denver CO. I didn't see any living examples so it is possible they have been there for nearly 100 years.

You are correct!, those are definitely mealworms. If you're not already aware, mealworms prefer to live in dark places (so under/in woodwork is expected) and typically eat decaying material, but are also partial to consuming new plant growth.

During the larval stage of a mealworm (of which will eventually grow into a Darkling Beetle), a mealworm will undergo 10-15 molts before pupating. That being said, the collection of carapaces that are shown in your picture is probably the work of just a few beetles.

I cannot attest as to how long it takes for a mealworm carapace to deteriorate, but sure, those remains could very well have been there for decades. If the location in which you found these remains has a dirt floor, you could possibly try identifying trails that were left by the developed beetles. Their trails looks like this:

Worms Hanging From Ceiling Are Moth Larvae

A reader recently reached out to us from Florida. She asked, “What are these? I found them hanging from threads on the ceiling.” She wonders if it is necessary to call an exterminator, or if this is an isolated occurrence.

We believe these are moth larvae. On many occasions, readers have found these tiny black worms hanging from their walls and ceilings by thin strands. We don’t think our reader needs to call an exterminator to deal with these creatures, as thorough cleaning should do the trick.

As we mentioned above, we believe our reader is dealing with moth larvae. We think they are probably geometer moth larvae, a.k.a. inchworms! Some species of inchworms can produce silk, so the thread-like strands the specimens are hanging from are likely pieces of silk.

So, how did these larvae end up in our reader’s home? Like most larvae, inchworms eat decaying organic material. Adult geometer moths typically lay their eggs in or near a food source so that when the eggs hatch the larvae can start eating right away. These larvae likely hatched from eggs that were lain somewhere on our reader’s ceiling. A geometer moth could have deposited her eggs on the remains of a dead bug or some other decaying organic material.

Getting rid of these larvae will just require some cleaning! Our reader can start by sweeping away the larvae and the silk they are hanging from. Then she should scrub the ceilings and walls to eliminate whatever decaying organic material attracted the moth in the first place. To prevent future visits from inchworms and other small creatures, we recommend that our reader check to make sure her windows and doors are properly sealed and screened. She can also seal up any cracks between doors, walls, and ventilation systems. This will eliminate small entryways for worm-like organisms.

To conclude, we believe the small black worms our reader noticed hanging from her ceiling are inchworms! These larvae are harmless and can be eliminated by cleaning…there is no need for her to call an exterminator!

How to Get Rid of Moth Worms

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Moth worms are the larvae stage of a moth, which occurs just after moth eggs hatch. Moths like to lay their eggs near clothing and food pantries because these places offer lots of food options for the larvae to munch on once they hatch. If you’ve found moth worms in your clothing or kitchen, then you know the damage their munching can cause. Fortunately, you can get rid of moth worms by cleaning out your closets and wardrobes, dealing with pantry moth worms, and repelling moths.

House Fly Larvae

The house fly can be an aggravating pest found within human homes. In fact, the house fly has a strong relationship with man and will travel with human populations to even the coldest of regions. House fly populations can be harmful to human health: they carry multiple pathogens and have been linked to the spread of a number of diseases.

House fly eggs look like small grains of rice. Eggs hatch within 24 hours, and house fly larvae emerge. House fly larvae, or maggots, appear similar to pale worms. Their sole purpose is to eat and store energy for their upcoming pupation. Larvae feed for approximately five days, after which they find dry, dark locations for pupal development.

House fly larvae can be commonly found on rotting plant or animal material. If an animal dies, maggots will most likely feed on the corpse. These larvae also fall prey to many other species, including reptiles, birds and other insects. Certain wasps are known to lay their eggs inside maggots. When these eggs hatch, young wasps devour the maggot from the inside out.

When entering the pupal stage, white larvae develop hard, dark outer shells. Within a few hours of emerging from the pupa case, females are capable of breeding. She is capable of depositing almost a thousand eggs in her lifetime.

What is this worm or larva I found in my walls - Biology

The family Phengodidae are uncommonly encountered beetles that have bioluminescent females that appear to be larvaiform (or larger versions of the immature stage.) These adult females are able to produce light from paired photic organs located on each body segment (one glowing spot on each side) and sometimes also from luminous bands that extend across the dorsal surface of the body between each body segment. Females appear to be more commonly encountered than larvae. Because these glowing spots along the females body resemble the windows of train cars internally illuminated in the night, they are often referred to as "railroad-worms."

Males of these species are not larviform, but instead resemble other beetles, though their first pair of wings (elytra) are less then half as long as their hind wings and the males of most species have very elaborate, feather-like antennae. These fancy antennae are used to detect and follow pheromones produced by the female.

Distribution (Back to Top)

This beetle family (as defined by Lawrence et al. 1999) is restricted to the New World (from the northern U.S. to Chile) with its highest diversity in the neotropics. It is represented by approximately 25 genera. Some 181 described species are currently known to science, with perhaps 100 more already in collections that remain to be named.

The phengodid genera found in the U.S. include: Cenophengus LeConte 1881, Distremocephalus Wittmer 1975, Paraptorthodius Schaeffer 1904, Phengodes Illiger 1807, Stenophrixothrix Wittmer 1963, and Zarhipis LeConte 1881. The number of species in this family that are currently known to occur in the U.S. is 23, with most occurring in the southwestern U.S.

Phengodid species that are known from Florida are restricted to the genus Phengodes: P. fuscipes floridensis Blatchley (which is endemic to FL, generally restricted to the south-central region of the state), P. f. intermedia Wittmer, P. laticollis meridiana Wittmer, P. nigromaculata Wittmer, and P. plumosa Olivier (though this last species appears to be a questionable Florida record.)

Description (Back to Top)

Eggs: The eggs are oval and white. While eggs are known to be luminescent, they can take up to one month after being laid before they become luminous. The eggs of Z. integripennis are approximately 2.75 mm in diameter though the eggs of most species are smaller. As far as is known, eggs are laid on the ground in groups and are encircled by the female for a period of time (perhaps till they hatch). Barber (1906) reported 53 eggs being laid by a single Phengodes female.

Larvae: The last larval instar range in size from15 to 65mm in length. They are vermiform (cylindrical with short legs) and have a prognathous (pointing forward) head. Antennae are three segmented with one pair of stemmata (single lens, simple eyes) on each side of the head. Larval mandibles possess an internal channel, running from the base of the mandible to its tip. Body is smooth, moderately sclerotized and shiny. Coloration is variable.

Photic organs in Zarhipis, are present as bands (at the base of the meso and metathroax and on all but the last abdominal tergites,) or spots (on upper lateral surfaces of abdominal segments one through nine) the photic emissions generally are greenish-yellow (Tiemann 1967).

The photic organs in Phrixothrix are composed of two medial organs on the head (producing red photic emissions) and 11 pairs of photic organs (producing yellowish-green emissions) located from second thoracic segment through the ninth abdominal segment (Costa et al. 1999). The larvae are predacious and feed on millipedes.

Pupa: Pupation in Zarhipis integripennis takes 12 to 13 days for females and 20 to 35 days for males (Tiemann 1967).

Males: Adult males of various species range from approximately 6 to 35 mm in length. Males are often brownish to brown and black. Antennae are large, 12-segmented and bipectinate (with rami pointing forward). Mandibles are large, slender and very curved. Elytra (the forewings) are greatly shortened, narrowed toward the distal tip and somewhat leathery. Eyes are large and bulge outward from the sides of head.

Figure 1. A scanning electron microscope image of an adult male Phengodes sp. "glow- worm," showing mandibles and antenna. Photograph by T.C. Carlysle, University of Florida.

Figure 2. An adult male Phengodes plumosa "glow-worm" dorsal view. Photograph by Marc Branham, University of Florida.

Figure 3. An adult male Phengodes laticollis "glow-worm" dorsal view. Photograph by Marc Branham, University of Florida.

Females: Females are brownish tan to light tan with black surrounding areas of red on their dorsal surface in some taxa. Others appear a creamy-tan. Females are larviform: with a larval-like antenna bearing three segments, larval-like legs (with a single claw per leg) and a single stemmata rather than bearing a compound eye. Through rearing studies in the lab with Phrixothrix hirtus, Costa et al. (1999) were able to distinguish larviform adult females from larvae "by the presence of an ooporus (the opening for the discharge of eggs) in sternite IX, which is absent in larvae and by the annular (ring-shaped) spiracles, which are biforous (having two openings) in larvae."

The larviform females appear to be identical to the larvae in this species otherwise. Rearing studies to determine such differences in other genera have yet to be done and needs much attention. The pattern of photic organ arrangement in Zarhipis females are as found in Zarhipis larvae, plus one to three luminous spots on ventrite of abdominal segments two through nine. The arrangement in female Phrixothrix is as found in their larvae (reviewed in Branham and Wenzel 2001).

Figure 4. A female Phengodes sp. "glow-worm." Photograph by Lyle Buss, University of Florida.

Figure 5. A female Phengodes sp. "glow-worm" curled after being disturbed. Photograph by Lyle Buss, University of Florida.

Figure 6. A female Phengodes sp. "glow-worm" glowing. Photograph by James E. Lloyd, University of Florida.

Figure 7. A female Phengodes sp. "glow-worm" curled and glowing. Photograph by James E. Lloyd, University of Florida.

Biology and Behavior (Back to Top)

Larvae can be found glowing both in wet soil and while on the bark or leaves of trees (though these arboreal larvae are mainly found in tropical regions where moisture levels above the ground is high.)

Even though species in this family are not well studied, the males and females appear to be the most active at night. When males are collected, they are generally collected at lights and light traps in the evening. Even though females appear to hide in their burrows during the day, females can often be detected on the surface of the ground by their glowing, immediately following a summer rain. Even though the females are bioluminescent, the females light emission does not appear to be the cue that the males use to locate their mates. Females are located by males following the females pheromone. Current evidence suggests that females are advertising their unpalatability by using their glowing as a warning signal to nocturnal predators (Viviani and Bechara 1997). Females also often glow continuously while they curl themselves around their eggs.

Phengodid males in the tribe Mastinocerini (Brasilocerus, Euryopa, Mastinocerus, Mastinomorphus, Phrixothrix, Stenophrixothrix and Taxinomastinocerus) glow from larval photic organs and are luminous throughout their adult life. Like the female photic emissions, these emissions appear to serve a defensive rather than a courtship function (Viviani and Bechara 1997). A male Cenophengus ciceroi was observed glowing from "two faint green spots, each lateral to the midline in the last abdominal segments. These spots glowed continuously and uncontrollably" (Wittmer 1981).

Males from the South American genus Pseudophengodes, have a large photic organ similar in size and shape to those found in some fireflies. These photic organs are not of larval origin and appear to be used in pair formation in these few species.

Through a modern phylogenetic analysis of the cantharoid taxa (those including Phengodidae and their closest relatives) Branham and Wenzel (2001) not only hypothesize that phengodids and fireflies are not each others closest relatives, but that bioluminescence arose twice and was lost once in this lineage of beetles. Phengodids and fireflies (family Lampyridae) have traditionally been thought to be each others closest relative, mainly due to the fact both families are bioluminescent.

Rearing Larvae (Back to Top)

Rearing phengodid larvae is a difficult task that requires patience, skill and luck. Success is more likely if late instar larvae are field collected and reared in the lab to the adult stage. Tiemann (1967) had success rearing Z. integripennis (an arid species) by keeping early instars in 10x10x6 cm covered plastic refrigerator containers with about 3 cm of moist, fine sand in the bottom. Holes were made in the cover to allow gas exchange, but some larvae apparently escaped through these holes.

For larger larvae, Tiemann found the best method for rearing this species involved "a 40x35 cm plastic wastebucket fitted with a screened drain (1 cm dia.) at the bottom. This bucket was then filled to about 8 cm from the top with sand and moistened. The larvae that were added in April were not watered again until fall (October 11). Five days after this second watering the larvae were removed (they were found at depths ranging from 22 to 32 cm) and added to smaller containers with moist sand and several millipedes for food. Soon after being added to the smaller containers with the millipedes, the larvae began to feed." Tiemann pointed out that millipedes could also be kept for a period of time in this manner, as they burrow into the sand as it dries out. No additional notes or suggestions on rearing Z. integripennis were mentioned in Tiemann (1967).

Figure 8. Phengodes sp. railroad-worm feeding on a millipede, Gainesville, FL. Photograph by Lyle Buss, University of Florida.

Figure 9. Phengodes sp. railroad-worm feeding on a millipede, Gainesville, FL. Photograph by Lyle Buss, University of Florida.

Figure 10. Phengodes sp. railroad-worm feeding on a millipede, Gainesville, FL. Photograph by Lyle Buss, University of Florida.

Selected References (Back to Top)

  • Barber HS. 1906. Note on Phengodes in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. Proceedings of the Washington Entomological Society 7: 196-197.
  • Branham MA, Wenzel JW. 2001. The evolution of bioluminescence in cantharoids (Coleoptera: Elateroidea). Florida Entomologist 4: 565-586.
  • Costa C, Vanin SA, Casari SA, Viviani VR. 1999. Larvae of neotropical Coleoptera. XXVII Phrixothrix hirtus: immature, neotenic female, adult male and bionomic data (Phengodinae, Phengodidae, Coleoptera). Iheringia Serie Zoologia, Porto Alegre 86: 9-28.
  • Lawrence JF, Hastings AM, Dallwitz MJ, Paine TA, Zurcher EJ. (1999). Beetles of the World: A Key and Identification System for Families and Subfamilies. (CD-ROM Version 1.0 for Windows). CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.
  • LeSage L. 1991. Phengodidae (Cantharidea) (including Rhagophthalmidae). p. 424-426 In Stehr F. (ed.) Immature Insects. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa. 975pp.
  • Miller R. 1997. Female Phengodes feeding and an associated risk (Coleoptera: Phengodidae). Entomological News 108: 213-214.
  • O'Keefe S. 2002. Phengodidae LeConte 1861, p. 181-186 In Arnett Jr. R, Thomas MC, Skelly PE, Frank JH. (eds.) American Beetles. Vol. 2. CRC Press, New York, NY. 861pp.
  • Tiemann D. 1967. Observation on the natural history of the western banded glow-worm Zarhipis integripennis. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 35: 235-264.
  • Tiemann D. 1970. Nature's toy train, the railroad worm. National Geographic 138: 58-67.
  • Viviani VR, Bechara JH. 1997. Bioluminescence and biological aspects of Brazilian railroad-worms (Coleoptera: Phengodidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 90: 389-398.
  • Wing S. 1984. A spate of glow-worms (Coleoptera: Phengodidae). Entomological News 95: 55-57.
  • Wittmer W. 1975. The genus Phengodes in the United States (Coleoptera: Phengodidae). Coleopterists Bulletin 29: 231-250.
  • Wittmer W. 1981. Zur kenntnis der Familie Phengodidae (Coleoptera). Mitteilungen der Entomologischen Gesellschaft Basel Neve Folge 31: 105-107.
  • Zaragoza CS. 1984. Catalogo de la familia Phengodidae. Anales del Instituto de Biologia Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico 55: 307-324.

Author: Marc Branham, University of Florida
Photographs: James Lloyd, Lyle Buss, and Marc Branham, University of Florida
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-332
Publication Date: December 2004. Latest revision: February 2005. Reviewed: February 2014. Reviewed: April 2021.

How to Get Rid of Drain Flies

Now for the DIY pest control part. Here’s how to get rid of drain flies and those little worms crawling around your shower drain and drain pipes. Roto-Rooter recommends the following methods of killing drain flies and drain fly larvae.

Step 1: Make Sure Drain is Working Properly

Pour approximately 1/2 gallon of water down the drain where you see the drain flies or small black worms congregating. If the water drains away quickly, that means the drain is functioning properly.

Step 2: Add Hot Water

Next, pour in a panful of very hot water to kill the drain fly larvae. IMPORTANT: Do not pour boiling water down the drain as it has the potential of cracking some materials.

Step 3: Add Vinegar OR Bleach

NOTE: Do not add both vinegar and bleach. Choose only one. Mixing the two together can create a toxic chlorine gas.


Now pour one cup of white vinegar down the same drain. The white vinegar should kill any of the drain fly larvae stuck to the sides of the pipe.


Pour one cap full of bleach down the drain. It doesn’t seem like much, but one cap full of bleach is all you need to kill any flies or larvae that are hiding in the drain pipe.

Worms and Bugs in my filter/walls/tank?

Hi there! There is something that leaves me stumped and scared for my fish when it comes to bugs and parasites.

I was unfortunate enough to see some bugs around whenI was messing around with my fish about 1 and a half months ago. I tried to kill them with a cleaning agent and whipped them to death with a good, clean cloth- No result. They were on the walls at the time.

I was constantly cleaning the walls to ensure that these pesky things would not be here. Still no progress, it was even worse. I even had some squished bug marks on the walls. So yeah, even if I would use the cleaning agent like crazy, those buggers were flying fast and I could only catch a few at a time, but there was even more than before the next day.
Per example, I have ten bugs on the wall. I use the technique to kill them, there are about 3. The next day, there are 12 bugs. I was getting quite frustrated and lost hope.

. I realised they were breeding in my filter. Yes, they did.
I found some larvae when I was going to clean the tank. The larvae kinda look like freeze-dried bloodworms, but much smaller and mre uniform in shape. They barely move, and if they do, very slowly. I was liyterally freaking out and screamed ''OMGGG IT'S MOVING!'' while almost droping the filter.

I was constantly rinsing the filter, and hundreds of those buggers were sticking out in the water. I was rising the carbon filter over 25 times and there was STILL some larvae comming out of it! Just. Wow.
Then, once there was FINALLY no larvae (after about 30 rinses I believe), I cleaned the rest of the filter. There was no larvae at all, so I assume the bugs were breeding on the carbon filter to populate. But this raises the two questions.

1: How can I get rid of them for good? If there are larvae in a few hours in the filter, I will use a vinegar solution (1 tsp with 6 tsp of water) to try to kill them all. Would that be a good solution?

2: Where in the living hell do they come from. I know I had to dump out the tank water from the window in my room when I was doing water changes, so they might be comming in the house tat way. But it still leaves me stumped to see that they populated so quick.


Ascaris species are very large (adult females: 20 to 35 cm adult males: 15 to 30 cm) nematodes (roundworms) that parasitize the human intestine. A. lumbricoides is the primary species involved in human infections globally, but Ascaris derived from pigs (often referred to as A. suum) may also infect humans. These two parasites are very closely related, and hybrids have been identified thus, their status as distinct, reproductively isolated species is a contentious topic.

Life Cycle:

Adult worms live in the lumen of the small intestine. A female may produce approximately 200,000 eggs per day, which are passed with the feces . Unfertilized eggs may be ingested but are not infective. Larvae develop to infectivity within fertile eggs after 18 days to several weeks , depending on the environmental conditions (optimum: moist, warm, shaded soil). After infective eggs are swallowed , the larvae hatch , invade the intestinal mucosa, and are carried via the portal, then systemic circulation to the lungs . The larvae mature further in the lungs (10 to 14 days), penetrate the alveolar walls, ascend the bronchial tree to the throat, and are swallowed . Upon reaching the small intestine, they develop into adult worms. Between 2 and 3 months are required from ingestion of the infective eggs to oviposition by the adult female. Adult worms can live 1 to 2 years.


Humans and swine are the major hosts for Ascaris see Causal Agents for discussion on species status of Ascaris from both hosts. Natural infections with A. lumbricoides sometimes occur in monkeys and apes.

Occasionally, Ascaris sp. eggs may be found in dog feces. This does not indicate true infection but instead spurious passage of eggs following coprophagy.

Geographic Distribution

Ascariasis is the most common human helminthic infection globally. The burden is highest in tropical and subtropical regions, especially in areas with inadequate sanitation. This infection is generally rare to absent in developed countries, but sporadic cases may occur in rural, impoverished regions of those countries. Some cases in these areas where human transmission is negligible have direct epidemiologic associations to pig farms.

Clinical Presentation

Although heavy infections in children may cause stunted growth via malnutrition, adult worms usually cause no acute symptoms. High worm burdens may cause abdominal pain and intestinal obstruction and potentially perforation in very high intensity infections. Migrating adult worms may cause symptomatic occlusion of the biliary tract, appendicitis, or nasopharyngeal expulsion, particularly in infections involving a single female worm.

Most dried food products can be infested by insects

  • Cereal products (flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, and cookies)
  • Seeds such as dried beans and popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins and other dried fruits
  • Spices
  • Powdered milk
  • Tea
  • Cured meats

Other items that may be infested include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental corn, dried flowers and plants, garden seeds, potpourri and rodent baits.

Pantry pests are most likely to infest products that have been opened but they also can get into unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil or cellophane-wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams.

Insects inside an infested package multiply and can spread to other stored foods not only in the same area but in other rooms in a home.

All insect stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present at the same time in infested products.

Where do they come from?

A stored food product can become infested from production until it arrives in your home. But stored food is most likely to become infested in the grocery store or in homes. Most pantry pests also infest stored grain and may be found outdoors.

Food products that are left in storage for a long time are prone to infestation. But foods of any age can become infested.

Control and prevent pantry pests

How to keep insects from getting into your food

  • Buy dried foods in quantities small enough to be used up in a short period of time (two to four months).
  • Use oldest products before newer ones, and opened packages before unopened ones.
  • Inspect packages or bulk products before buying.
    • Packages should be sealed and unbroken.
    • Check the freshness packaging date.
    • Look for evidence of insects including holes in the packaging or wrapping.

    Washing areas with detergents, ammonia, or bleach will not prevent insect infestation. There is no evidence that placing bay leaves or sticks of spearmint gum in a cupboard will prevent or get rid of stored food insect pests.

    How do to be sure you have a pantry pest infestation

    Signs you may have a problem:

    • Small beetles in dried food products.
    • Beetles on counters and in cupboards.
    • Beetles found around windows.
    • Indianmeal moths flying around kitchens and other rooms.
    • Caterpillars on walls and ceilings in rooms next to infestations.
    • Caterpillars and silk webbing inside infested food packages.

    Not all small beetles or moths found indoors are pantry pests. If there is not a direct association with food, be sure the insects are identified correctly by an expert to determine whether they are a stored product food insect.

    When you know a stored product problem is present, be sure to examine all susceptible food as there could be more than one infested source. When inspecting, look at the top surface of products with a flashlight or pour the package contents onto a cookie sheet.

    How to get rid of pantry pests

    When you find food that is infested, throw it away.

    Use a vacuum cleaner to thoroughly clean cabinets and shelves, especially in cracks and corners. This will pick up crawling insects and spilled or infested material. Empty the vacuum cleaner or discard the vacuum cleaner bag after use to prevent re-infestation.

    Washing shelves with detergent, bleach, ammonia, or disinfectants will not keep pantry pests from returning and could be dangerous if the chemicals come in contact with food.

    To prevent re-infestation, store foods in sealable glass, metal, or heavy plastic containers or in the freezer or refrigerator until you are sure the infestation is gone.

    It is not unusual to see an Indianmeal moth flying for up to three weeks after the infested food has been thrown out. However, if you continue to see Indianmeal moths after three weeks, that means there is an infested food source that you haven't found yet.

    If you have older food products and you are not sure if they are infested, you can put them in the freezer at 0 degrees for at least four days or in shallow cookie sheets or pans in an oven at 130 degrees for at least 30 minutes. These temperatures will kill any eggs or insects.

    If insects are infesting ornaments or decorations made with plant products or seeds, place the items in a freezer for at least four days.


    • Insecticides are not recommended for controlling insects in stored food cupboards.
    • Household insecticides have no effect on insects inside food packages.
    • Any control of insects outside of packaging is temporary unless you find and get rid of the source of the infestation.
    • Any food that comes in contact with insecticide must be thrown away and cupboards, containers and dishes must be thoroughly washed and dried before being used again.

    How to identify common pantry pests

    Indianmeal moths

    Plodia interpunctella are the most common moths infesting food in homes. These moths have a wingspan of 1/2 to 5/8 inch. When at rest, they fold their wings behind themselves, over their bodies. The base of the front wing is pale gray or tan and the rest is reddish-brown with a coppery luster. The wing markings are distinctive, but may be less clear if the scales have been rubbed from the wings.

    Indianmeal moths may be found inside infested products or flying around homes. The larvae are whitish worms with shades of yellow, pink, green or brown and grow to 1/2 inch long. Only the larvae feed in stored products, which can be any dry stored food or whole grain. Foods infested with these insects will have silk webbing present on the surface of the product.

    Larvae often leave the food when mature and may move long distances before spinning a cocoon. It is common to find caterpillars and cocoons on ceilings and walls. Adult moths may be seen up to several weeks after the food source has been removed.

    Meal moths

    Pyralis farinalis have a wingspan of about 3/4-1 inch. Their forewings have a dark reddish-brown band across the top and bottom of the wings with an olive or yellowish-green band, outlined by wavy white lines in the center. Their abdomen is curved up at a 90-degree angle when at rest.

    Larvae have a black head and whitish body with some orange at the end of the body.

    Meal moths feed on a variety of flour and grain products and seeds. These moths are not common in homes.


    The rhabditid nematode (roundworm) Strongyloides stercoralis is the major causative agent of strongyloidiasis in humans. Rarer human-infecting species of Strongyloides are the zoonotic S. fuelleborni (fülleborni) subsp. fuelleborni and S. fuelleborni subsp. kellyi, for which the only currently known host is humans. Strongyloides spp. are sometimes called &ldquothreadworms&rdquo (although in some countries this common name refers to Enterobius vermicularis).

    Other animal-associated Strongyloides spp., including S. myopotami (nutria), S. procyonis (raccoons), and possibly others, may produce mild short-lived cutaneous infections in human hosts (larva currens, &ldquonutria itch&rdquo), but do not cause true strongyloidiasis.

    Life Cycle

    Strongyloides stercoralis

    The Strongyloides stercoralis life cycle is complex, alternating between free-living and parasitic cycles and involving autoinfection. In the free-living cycle: Rhabditiform larvae are passed in the stool of an infected definitive host , develop into either infective filariform larvae (direct development) or free-living adult males and females that mate and produce eggs , from which rhabditiform larvae hatch and eventually become infective filariform (L3) slarvae . The filariform larvae penetrate the human host skin to initiate the parasitic cycle (see below) . This second generation of filariform larvae cannot mature into free-living adults and must find a new host to continue the life cycle.

    Parasitic cycle: Filariform larvae in contaminated soil penetrate human skin when skin contacts soil , and migrate to the small intestine . It has been thought that the L3 larvae migrate via the bloodstream and lymphatics to the lungs, where they are eventually coughed up and swallowed. However, L3 larvae appear capable of migrating to the intestine via alternate routes (e.g. through abdominal viscera or connective tissue). In the small intestine, the larvae molt twice and become adult female worms . The females live embedded in the submucosa of the small intestine and produce eggs via parthenogenesis (parasitic males do not exist) , which yield rhabditiform larvae. The rhabditiform larvae can either be passed in the stool (see &ldquoFree-living cycle&rdquo above), or can cause autoinfection .

    Rhabditiform larvae in the gut become infective filariform larvae that can penetrate either the intestinal mucosa or the skin of the perianal area, resulting in autoinfection. Once the filariform larvae reinfect the host, they are carried to the lungs, pharynx and small intestine as described above, or disseminate throughout the body. The significance of autoinfection in Strongyloides is that untreated cases can result in persistent infection, even after many decades of residence in a non-endemic area, and may contribute to the development of hyperinfection syndrome.

    Life Cycle

    Strongyloides fuelleborni

    Strongyloides fuelleborni follows the same life cycle as S. stercoralis, with the important distinction that eggs (rather than larvae) are passed in the stool . Eggs hatch shortly after passage into the environment, releasing rhabditiform larvae , that develop to either infective filariform larvae (direct development) or free-living adult males and females . The free-living adults mate and produce eggs, from which more rhabditiform larvae hatch and eventually become infective filariform larvae . The filariform larvae penetrate the human host skin to initiate the parasitic cycle . These larvae migrate via the bloodstream to the lungs, where they are eventually coughed up and swallowed, or reach the intestine via migration through connective tissue or abdominal viscera . In the small intestine, larvae molt twice and become adult female worms. Parasitic females embedded in the submucosa of the small intestine and produce eggs via parthenogenesis (parasitic males do not exist) .

    Since eggs do not hatch within the host as with S. stercoralis, autoinfection is believed to be impossible. Transmission of S. fuelleborni subsp. kellyi to infants as a result of breastfeeding has been reported.


    Strongyloides spp. are generally host-specific, and S. stercoralis is primarily a human parasite. However, patent infections with parasitic females have been detected in other primates (chimpanzees, monkeys, etc.) and domestic dogs. Two genetic populations have been found in domestic dogs, one that appears to only infect dogs and one that may infect both dogs and humans all human infections have been attributed to this second genetic population. Domestic cats are experimentally susceptible to S. stercoralis infections although it is unknown if they have a role as a natural reservoir.

    Strongyloides fuelleborni subsp. fuelleborni is a parasite of Old World apes and monkeys. The only identified host of S. fuelleborni subsp. kellyi is humans.

    Geographic Distribution

    Strongyloides stercoralis is broadly distributed in tropical and subtropical areas across the globe. Transmission has been reported during summer months in temperate areas. Infections are most common in areas with poor sanitation, rural and remote communities, institutional settings, and among socially marginalized groups.

    S. fuelleborni subsp. fuelleborni occurs in non-human primates throughout the Old World. The vast majority of human infections are reported from sub-Saharan Africa. Sporadic cases have been reported from Southeast Asia. S. fuelleborni subsp. kellyi is found in Papua New Guinea, and has not been reported elsewhere thus far.

    Clinical Presentation

    The initial sign of acute strongyloidiasis, if noticed at all, is a localized pruritic, erythematous rash at the site of skin penetration. Patients may then develop tracheal irritation and a dry cough as the larvae migrate from the lungs up through the trachea. After the larvae are swallowed into the gastrointestinal tract, patients may experience diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and anorexia. Chronic strongyloidiasis is generally asymptomatic, but a variety of gastrointestinal and cutaneous manifestations may occur. Rarely, patients with chronic strongyloidiasis may develop other complications (e.g. arthritis, cardiac arrhythmias, chronic malabsorption, duodenal obstruction, nephrotic syndrome, recurrent asthma). Up to 75% of people with chronic strongyloidiasis have mild peripheral eosinophilia or elevated IgE levels.

    Hyperinfection syndrome and disseminated strongyloidiasis are most frequently associated with subclinical infection in patients receiving high-dose corticosteroids. Subsequent impaired host immunity leads to accelerated autoinfection and an overwhelming number of migrating larvae. In chronic strongyloidiasis and in hyperinfection syndrome, the larvae are limited to the GI tract and the lungs, whereas in disseminated strongyloidiasis the larvae invade numerous organs. A variety of systemic, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, and neurologic signs/symptoms have been documented complications can be severe. Left untreated, the mortality rates of hyperinfection syndrome and disseminated strongyloidiasis can approach 90%.

    The subcutaneous migration of filariform larvae in the autoinfective cycle, or &ldquolarva currens&rdquo, presents as a recurrent serpiginous maculopapular or urticarial rash along the buttocks, perineum, and thighs due to repeated autoinfection. This rash usually advances very rapidly (up to 10 cm/hr).

    In infants infected with S. fuelleborni subsp. kellyi, a severe, often fatal, systemic illness involving protein-losing enteropathy has been described, which sometimes presents with peritoneal ascites (&ldquoswollen belly syndrome&rdquo).

    Maggots on my ceiling? May 12, 2007 2:33 PM Subscribe

    Photos here: 1, 2. About a week ago, I started noticing a few moths flying around my kitchen, but thought maybe it was because I'd left the windows open (I have screens, but it was all I could think of). Then I noticed these guys crawling all over the ceiling. I've seen up to 20 a day, though only 4 today. I'm sure they're common, but I don't even know where to begin. I'd guess maggots of some sort, but where are they coming from? It's baffling, because I keep the kitchen clean (and it's especially spotless now -- I've even been checking all the food, and have tossed stuff I would normally keep), and I thought maggots usually lived in rotting meat. How do I get rid of them?

    Btw, I've called and emailed the landlord, but no response. I know she'll get back to me eventually, but I'd like to know what they are and get rid of them now, if possible.

    Best answer: Ooh. Sounds like pantry moths. They come into your house in dry goods like birdseed, rice, stuff from the bulk bins at the supermarket, etc.

    You can buy sticky traps to try and get rid of them. The first step is to go through and get rid of packages of dry goods.

    Here's the type of traps I've bought in the past. Last time, I was able to find some at Ace Hardware.
    posted by divka at 2:42 PM on May 12, 2007

    Best answer: Totally pantry moths, aka miller moths.

    Those pheromone traps do work, but not until the larvae hatch.

    In the meantime, clean up the wigglers (eww) and be sure to keep all dry food (grain, flour, cereal, nuts, raisins, etc.) in glass or hard plastic -- no cardboard boxes, crinkly bags, or zip-locs. Signs of infestation in dry food include little cobweb whiskers (look for "dangly bits" of food on the sides of the container).

    They're gross, but basically harmless, except for the spoiled food.
    posted by ottereroticist at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2007

    Best answer: keep all dry food (grain, flour, cereal, nuts, raisins, etc.) in glass or hard plastic

    Be careful about this - the little bastards can get into all kinds of containers. We had plastic containers with snap-on lids, and they managed to get in those. We also found old cocoons around the edges on the outside sometimes.
    posted by dilettante at 2:58 PM on May 12, 2007

    Best answer: We had an infestation not long ago. We brought some eggs home from a flour mill. Usually we freeze everything we get from there overnight, but one small bag of oat flour got shoved into the cupboard right away. They got into everything. You'll want to check all receptacles of flour, cereal, corn starch, spices*, etc. We moved just about everything we kept into glass jars after that, just to be safe, (the larvae are the destructive phase and can get in about anywhere). We cleaned out the cupboards, washed them top to bottom, and even repainted the insides (overkill, most likely) just in case. If you can get to the eggs and keep a swatter in the kitchen for awhile, (we were getting a dozen moths a day for awhile) you'll be fine. Traps sound nice, too.

    We're pretty psycho about a clean kitchen, too, so don't take it personally. Be prepared to toss loads of dry goods. Think of it as an excuse to refresh your spices, which probably need it if you're like most of us. Sorry to scare you, but better safe than almost throwing up at the site of a husk in your food.

    *I found them in paprika, garlic, onion powder, etc. You'll see either husks or webbing.
    posted by monkeymadness at 2:59 PM on May 12, 2007

    Best answer: I got 'em from bulk dog biscuits.

    After you've completely de-bugged your pantry, you can keep them from coming back by putting all bulk food you buy in your freezer for a day or two. Kills the eggs.
    posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:08 PM on May 12, 2007

    Best answer: Monkeymadness, we repainted our shelves too after last summer's pantry moth infestation.

    The final straw for my wife was when, one morning as she prepared to fry up our Sunday bacon, one of those little worms dropped from the stove hood and writhed in agony in a preheating cast iron frying pan. If the pan were not a generation's old hand-me-down, we'd have probably thrown it away.

    Supposedly, they don't like the smell of bay leaves, so we scatter a few of those around our shelves, now. Hard to tell if they're actually working, though.
    posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:33 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

    We had them when we lived in Japan. The kitchen of our house was full of the little larvae. We cleaned every inch of our kitchen, which did not work. Then we discovered they were coming from an open package of cookies left on top of the fridge, out of sight. After we cleaned that up they went away.

    However, for some reason our house seemed to attract pest (no cockroaches, thank god).

    We had giant Asian hornets nest outside our living room (city got rid of them), mud wasps under the lintels, and fucking stray cats that migrated from the fish market loading dock.

    We scattered little, stinky chemical tablets, and over the winter the cats seemed to go away. However, when the snow melted, I noticed a little cat's paw sticking out from under a pile of cardboard in the covered drying area.

    I lifted up the cardboard and found a mummified cat.

    Fucking stray cats.
    posted by KokuRyu at 5:51 PM on May 12, 2007

    There's also Insect Growth Regulators such as Gentrol.

    It's a hormone that prevents larvae from maturing. It won't kill the moths, but it will prevent their offspring from causing further infestation. I believe it's pretty safe around food as it's not a poison.
    posted by ShooBoo at 9:38 PM on May 12, 2007

    Here in Australia we call them weevils and I get them in my kitchen from time-to-time. I've taken to keeping flour and rice and oats in my fridge and basically chucking out anything I see an infestation in. And then when I buy new anything I put it straight in a plastic or glass container, and then I check pretty much every dryish food I go to cook with before use to ensure they're not in it.

    They're gross but not a reflection on your hygiene, which is about the only plus side.
    posted by jasperella at 9:45 PM on May 12, 2007

    Best answer: They can grow in anything. I had some in my last apartment. I thought I threw out or sealed up everything but they still hung around. Eventually I found an open cellophane package of dried ancho chili peppers that was infested with them. Everything dry in my kitchen is sealed in glass or hard plastic (ziplocks won't cut it).

    This was also when I learned why "crazy" people kept their breakfast cereal in the refrigerator. Turns out they aren't crazy.
    posted by chairface at 11:12 PM on May 12, 2007

    Best answer: Yep, I hate these. Like everyone else says, there's a good chance that something among your dry foods (flour, noodles, dry soup, powdered mixes, cookies, etc.) has been infested and is sending its wormy children out to find new lands to colonize. Go through everything — everything — in your kitchen cabinets, toss anything infested, and put everything else in sealed jars. Wipe down the inside of your cabinets for good measure. The sealed jars keep the moths out, but they also keep them in if you misjudge some infested thing as clean, then the vermin can't escape and spread back to other items. (Though you will still have an unpleasant surprise when you eventually open that container. Yecch.)

    The moths don't really like things that get disturbed frequently, so probably you'll find the culprit 'way back in the back of some cabinet where you haven't looked in a while.

    I prefer glass and Tupperware-type plastic containers with airtight lids. The moths will happily eat through paper bags/boxes or thin cellophane packets.

    We had a problem a while back when we switched to a grain-based cat litter — the moths, thwarted in our kitchen, happily started breeding there.
    posted by hattifattener at 1:12 AM on May 13, 2007

    Response by poster: Thanks everyone! You were overwhelmingly right and I'm left wondering what other obvious stuff I don't know about. After reading your answers, I suddenly understood why my mom kept all her dry goods in glass jars.

    It had really never occurred to me that something so nasty could be lurking in dry goods. I checked the cabinets, and sure enough, that's where the moths and larvae were coming from. I think it was a bag of almonds that caused it (at least that's what had the most larvae/cocoons), but pretty much the whole cupboard was infested (except for canned goods, though I still wiped those down). Surprisingly, the cupboard next to it seemed unscathed I'm still watching it though.

    Ugh. So gross. Right now the infected cupboard is sitting empty (except for a hearty scattering of bay leaves). I haven't seen any moths or wormy maggots since the cleaning yesterday. I hope I got lucky and somehow caught this in an early stage or something. If I have to battle this regularly as some of you seem to have I would be tempted to eat only frozen food for the rest of my life.

    Again thanks, and sorry if it was something I should have already known (I don't understand myself how I'd never heard of this). I didn't know if it would be inappropriate to mark everyone as best answer, so I just marked those that had tips that I used. AskMefi is my collective hero.
    posted by sa3z at 7:00 PM on May 13, 2007

    Watch the video: Worms in Sarawak (May 2022).