Photo: Smabs Sputzer (flickr)
Those white, wiggly bugs sometimes found in boxes of grain foods go by many names: mealy bugs and mealy worms, to name two.
These annoying critters aren’t precisely bugs or worms, but are the larvae of moths and beetles. Their favorite food is starch, and what better place to find starch than in boxes of flour, sugar, and cake mixes.
Wiggling Bug Larvae
Manufacturers of these convenience foods put their products through processes that kill any moth and beetle eggs which might eventually hatch out into the food. So, when you find wiggling bug larvae in your pudding mix, you’re not looking at the results of a food company’s inferior standards.
How Do They Get Into Food?
Most of the time, moth and worm larvae enter a box of food from the outside because they are attracted by the starch in the glue that holds the box together. Once they eat through the box, they find a veritable cafeteria that could feed them for a long, long time.
After eating much of the starch in the foods they have infested, the bug larvae leave the food hard or clumpy, mainly because starch is the part of grain that keeps it from clumping and hardening.
Boxes of food that have set on a shelf for a long time are more likely to have larvae infestations than new food.
The good news about grain larvae is that they are not poisonous in any way. Nutritionists assure us that if most people weren’t so squeamish about eating food that moves, they wouldn’t need to purge the infested boxes from their shelves.
The bad news about these invisible invaders is that if they aren’t found early enough, they can ruin an entire pantry of food.