How Do Maggots Get in a Sealed Container?

Maggots cannot get into properly sealed containers because they cannot bite or chew through plastics and metals. If you find them in a properly sealed can, then there are insects or fly eggs that were trapped before sealing.

Maggots can only get in sealed containers if there are insect eggs on the food during packaging. They can also sneak into cracks or gaps in poorly sealed containers and lay eggs. Those eggs will then hatch into larvae which are also known as maggots.

Weevils and maggots are the most common pests that infest and feed on cereals, grains, and nuts preserved in kitchen cabinets. When maggots get into your foodstuffs in sealed jars, they spread contaminants on them, making them unsanitary. Maggots can spread to pests and cause diseases to pets.

How Do Maggots Get in a Sealed Container?
How Do Maggots Get in a Sealed Container?

How do maggots form in a sealed container?

Maggots appear in a sealed container due to eggs hatching, loosely sealed containers, or when the jar material is too thin.

1. Maggots result from hatched eggs

When you leave your container with food open, flies can quickly land and lay their eggs there, even for a few seconds. Flies are attracted to food, dirty places, and dead decaying organic matter. The eggs are usually tiny, and you cannot see them with your naked eyes.

If you close the container later, the food will still contain the eggs from the house fly. Heating the food or freezing it before storage will kill the eggs from the fly. Otherwise, they will hatch to form maggots or larvae at room temperatures.

The larvae are tiny, whitish, or greyish and look like a caterpillar. The Indianmeal moth is the most common maggot you will likely see in sealed containers. They come from house flies.

2. Maggots penetrate through loosely sealed containers

Storing food in loosely sealed containers also encourages maggots to appear in the jar, mainly when containing food or a substance with a scent that attracts flies. Typically, flies are found everywhere, and they breed in places with warmth and food that will sustain their larvae.

When the container is loosely sealed, flies are attracted to it and lay their eggs on the tiny spaces left. At room temperatures, the eggs will hatch to form larvae. Furthermore, if you have maggots in other areas of your house, they can come and sneak through the tiny spaces.

3. Maggots chew thin containers and penetrate

Larvae usually burrow through thin weak plastic bags or cardboards if there is ritten food around it. When you store your food in thin plastics, the larvae from other infested areas might chew them and find themselves inside the container.

However, it is not easy for maggots to eat through strong plastic or metals. They do not have tough teeth that are string enough to cut plastics and metals. For example, it is a myth to imagine that rice can turn into maggots when stored in a sealed container. If that happens, it is clear that there were insect eggs traped before it was sealed.

Can maggots live in a sealed can of food?

Maggots can comfortably live inside a sealed can with food or a dead decaying organic matter. The larvae need food to survive, and a sealed container with food readily provides it with the nourishment it needs. 

However, it is difficult for maggots to develop into the next stage if there is no aeration in a properly sealed container. They need oxygen once they are ready to grow into the next stage. Therefore maggots can only live in sealed containers in their early stages. Once they are grown, they will die due to a lack of oxygen.

Can maggots form without flies?

Maggots come from flies. They are baby flies in the larval stage of development. Larvae cannot form in a container or anywhere else without flies. If you see maggots in your jar, a fly must have landed on it and quickly laid eggs. You cannot see the eggs with your naked eyes because they are usually tiny.

The eggs take about 24 hours up to several days to hatch into larvae or maggots. The larvae will feed on the food for about 4  to 5 days before entering their inactive development stage.

Ways to prevent maggots in sealed jars

The immediate task you want to do after noticing a few maggots in your jars is removing them before they multiply and preventing them from coming back.  Below are the ways to prevent maggots from invading your containers again. 

1. Heat the food before storage

Unheated packed foods on shelves might have maggot eggs. However, these eggs are harmless when ingested but can turn into maggots at room temperatures.

Heating certain foods before storage can significantly prevent the eggs from hatching to form larvae. High temperatures from the heat denature the eggs.

Before storing your food, heat it in a microwave or oven to eliminate any maggot eggs present. A temperature of 140oF for about 15 minutes will work perfectly.

Uncovered foods on surfaces or bowls allow flies to lay eggs in them. Maggots can appear in such foods as a result of hatching. Heat uncovered foods and seal them in containers to prevent larvae from appearing on them.

2. Freeze the food before storage

Freezing food in sealed containers before storage kills the flies’ eggs, preventing them from forming larvae. Freezing applies cool, inhabitable temperatures to the eggs.

Put the food in the jar and seal it tightly. Place it inside the freezer for about 8 hours to several days to expose the eggs to low temperatures to kill them. Freezing will keep maggots and other pests like ants from plastics that contain stored food.

3. Put the food in thick containers

Glass, thick plastic, and metal containers don’t allow the larvae from others areas to chew them and penetrate them. Therefore, they are suitable for storing foodstuffs when controlling maggots in your kitchen.

Store your grains or foods inside thick plastic, glass, and metals containers.

4. Seal the thick containers tightly before storage

Another trick to ensure you don’t have maggots in your sealed jars is to close them tightly after heating or freezing them before storing the food. Open containers allow flies to lay eggs under the lid, leading to maggots after hatching.

Seal the containers tightly during storage to block spaces for maggots to sneak. Airtight containers also lack oxygen to encourage the eggs to hatch.

5. Spread boric acid in the pantry area

Boric acid repels larvae from other rooms from entering where the sealed jars are. They have an unpleasant smell to the larvae, thus driving them away. Boric acid also kills the larvae when they ingest them.

Spread some boric acid around the pantry area or the cabinets with storage jars to kill and repel maggots from entering the cans.

6. Add oxygen absorbers to the storage cans

Maggots need oxygen to survive. The eggs from flies hatch under sufficient oxygen, favorable temperature, and food to feed the larvae after forming. The eggs cannot form larvae when oxygen is absent.

Oxygen absorbers draw oxygen from where you place them, making the area inhabitable for the larvae’s survival. The absorber particles are contained in small packets that you put into the container to absorb oxygen. However, the absorber particles can be toxic when you pour them inside the food and eat it later or ingest them directly.

Add oxygen absorber packets into the sealed containers and store the jars in the pantry. The absorbers will prevent maggots from forming in the container. The most common flies in sealed container contents are house flies and fruit flies since they feed on decaying matter. If the food is being processed in large quantities, then there are high chances that it will end up there.