Worms on the celing
September 18, 2009 7:00 AM   Subscribe

We found small brown maggots on our celing/walls this morning. Why, and how do we get rid of them? (NB - do not click if you are eating.)

Last year I took a sealed bag of porridge out of the baking cupboard, cut the corner, poured it into a bowl and saw it move. It was infested. We threw it out, went through that cupboard, and bleached the surfaces. At the same time, I found a couple in my room on a piece of my fabric (bought from an outdoor market), so threw that out, washed everything, and put it safely back into storage. We have a lot of moths around, so I wondered whether the two were connected, but there was no sign of moths on my clothing containers.

A few months ago, I took a jar out of my cupboard to find a chunky white maggot on the top. A cardboard tub of gravy granules seemed to have some in, and a plastic bag of hazlenuts (corner snipped off) and a plastic tub of candles (washed and replaced with the lid on the tub) had thin white ones in. Again, things got thrown out, other things got placed in sealed tubs.

Now, this morning, one maggot was on the wall, two near the celing, and one on the celing. The first time we've seen them in the kitchen for a while. The baking cupboard has shown no sign of them, and we keep everything else in the fridge or sealed. I am worried the moths might be part of the issue - we get small ones which, worryingly, occasionally fly out of cupboards. We keep the kitchen clean, mop the floor once a week, rinse everythign before it goes into the recycling bucket, and there are no tiles or anything like that. Any ideas? Is it just likely to be a random maggot occurance? If it helps, we live in London.
posted by mippy to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pantry moths! I had this same problem and asked about it here. I ended up following the advice in that thread, and haven't had a recurrence since, though I may have just gotten lucky. I had to throw everything in my cupboard out and left nothing but a scattering of bay leaves for a week. Good luck!
posted by sa3z at 7:10 AM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Are they very small, and turn into moths? If so, we've had them (I'm in the US), and they seem to show up in cereal/grain products. Unfortunately, they tend to infest anything that's not tightly-sealed, so you're probably going to want to go through your cupboards and check for the little critters. Throw away anything that seems infested, and put whatever else you have in the cupboards into airtight containers.

It takes a little while to get rid of them, but if you're diligent (washing down every surface every day, making sure to keep everything in Tupperware or the equivalent), they'll go away.
posted by xingcat at 7:11 AM on September 18, 2009

Oh and I keep everything in glass or hard plastic jars in my cupboard now. No plastic packages or cardboard boxes for me.
posted by sa3z at 7:12 AM on September 18, 2009

Seconding sa3z, I also followed the advice in that thread, and switched to hard plastic containers. No more pantry moths.

It's important that you go scorched earth on your cupboards -- just throwing away a few things or sweeping off one shelf won't solve your problem.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:19 AM on September 18, 2009

Chiming in...when my wife moved in, we discovered some dog food from an ex-friend behind a (long term) temporary cupboard. Pantry moths, which had been a minor annoyance, poured out, and we fought them for a week or two (I still occasionally find a spot near the ceiling where one of their cocoons was, that I'd neglected to clean). Everything in the kitchen that wasn't in cans (ugh, bachelor food - cheap chili) had to go.
posted by notsnot at 7:30 AM on September 18, 2009

it doesn't sound like they are really maggots (fly larve) but just moth larve - which isn't that gross. (is it?) I've never had them in plague proportions (or more than a couple) so can't help
posted by mary8nne at 7:46 AM on September 18, 2009

Yeah, it's pantry moths. You have to check ALL the food. Even stuff you think may not be attractive to moths (zipped bag of brown rice, unopened box of pasta) or seems well sealed (can of pancake mix). Fix the food first. Then get a sticky trap to catch the mature moths, and manually collect any of the wormies as they go marching across the ceiling. It'll take a few weeks, but they'll be gone. But seriously -- check ALL the food.
posted by xo at 7:52 AM on September 18, 2009

We had this problem. The most effective solution was to go "Scorched Earth" on the cabinets/pantry. Open everything. You'll be amazed how they've crawled around the threading of screw top containers into the product, into boxes etc. Take everything out, spray everything down with cleaner. We replaced any shelf liners we had.

Once we had done that we bought a pheromone based sticky trap. We caught dozens and dozens of moths, which you would have thought it would be obvious there were that many around -- it wasn't. Keep the sticky traps out for at least a couple of months. Then make sure you buy a new trap for next spring. We caught a few rogue moths once it got warm again, but since then no problems.

From then on everything -especially flour etc. goes into a plastic container or is sealed in a Freezer bag before going on the shelf.
posted by MasonDixon at 8:29 AM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding MasonDixon on the pheromone sticky traps. We've used these (U.S.-based company, sorry), and they are excellent. Moths disappear for 12-18 months, and when they reappear, we just open a couple more traps. They're non-toxic and inconspicuous. I think what they do is trap all the males, and then the females--well, I guess they just go elsewhere to do their icky larvae-producing business.

Also, yeah, the cleaning & sealing you've already done. And checking ALL pantry foods. The weirdest thing I had infested with moths was a bag of whole coriander seeds--??

I've noticed that light webbing in corners and bags of food, as well as a sawdust-like stuff (droppings? dunno) are signs that moths are around.
posted by torticat at 9:05 AM on September 18, 2009

I've noticed that light webbing in corners and bags of food, as well as a sawdust-like stuff (droppings? dunno)

That stuff is called frass. Learned it from a museum conservator. The advice to go scorched earth and pheromone trap is spot on with my own experience. Those damn moths are tenacious!
posted by Foam Pants at 10:32 AM on September 18, 2009

Yeah, pantry moths. Sealed boxes and bags mean nothing to them--they'll just chew tiny holes, crawl through and make themselves at home. Not even tins of cocoa are safe, and they apparently LOVES THEM SOME COCOA. In my experience, sealing food in Tupperware tubs with snap-on lids is no guarantee our little friends won't infest the food within; they'll manage to squeak in between the tub and the lid. The only thing that will keep them out seems to be a screw-on lid.

After you've cleared up this infestation, you might want to start putting all cereals/grains/starches (and cocoa) (and nuts) entering your house in the freezer at least overnight, since a lot of times infestations start with eggs carried in with the groceries, and freezing will destroy them, or at least so I've read, and it seems to have worked for me. Pet foods tend to be really major culprits,too, so you may want to consider getting a smaller bag of dry food if you have pets. And don't get me started on wild bird seed; if you have an outdoor bin, say, in the next county, that might be a safe place to store that crap.

Let me clarify: I'm not encouraging you to put your Cap'n Crunch in the freezer; just anything that will be around for a while, like a bag of flour, a box of oats, cake mixes, that sort of thing. Especially if you buy organic. In fact, I just leave my flour (and cocoa) (and nuts) in Rubbermaid containers in the freezer until I need them.

Yeah, I've had experience with pantry moths. I'll go a long time with not a one, then suddenly the little buggers will be flying everywhere and I'll eventually discover the half-box of pancake mix that somehow got pushed to the very back of the cabinet and forgotten, full of crawly ick. So I feel your pain, is I guess what I'm saying, and all the best to you clearing this round up.
posted by miss patrish at 9:33 PM on September 18, 2009

Do you live in an apartment? If so, you might want to check to make sure your upstairs neighbor isn't dead. Someone in my neighborhood recently had maggots on their ceiling and that's what the cause turned out to be.

If not, pantry moths it is.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:25 AM on September 19, 2009

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