Maggots are the most common pests that invade dry rice stored in the pantry. They reside on the grains, feed on them, lay eggs, and multiply fast, leading to an infestation. Food availability, fermented food, and optimum temperatures provide favorable conditions that cause maggots infestation in stored rice.
Rice does not turn into maggots because it is not a living thing. However, you can find maggots in rice if it is infested with pests like weevils, beetles, or moths which lay eggs that later hatch into maggots at their larvae stage. Stale-cooked rice can also attract flies that lay eggs which develop into maggots after some time.
It is important to know that maggots in your rice are a clear sign of a heavy infestation. The female will lay eggs that turn into maggots which is just a stage before they turn into adults. The larvae stage is also known as maggots and they do well at room temperatures.
Facts on maggots found in rice
Rice does not turn into maggots, but the tiny invisible maggots’ eggs in the rice hatch into larvae at room temperature to form maggots.
Generally, all kinds of rice contain maggot eggs in the packaging when you buy them from supermarkets. Maggots always look for places to hatch their eggs, preferably where there’s food that will feed the larvae after hatching. Therefore, they hide in grains while still in the warehouse.
When you buy rice containing maggot eggs and keep it at room temperature, the eggs hatch to form larvae, a tiny, white caterpillar-like worm you see in the rice. The larvae are the maggots, but the rice doesn’t become maggots.
Causes of maggots in the rice
Improperly stored rice can be covered with maggots when the maggots’ eggs hatch at room temperature to form larvae. Even house flies can land on stale rice and their eggs will hatch into maggots. House flies and fruit flies’ life cycles are one of the major causes of maggots in cooked rice.
Rice turning into maggots starts when an adult fly maggot lays eggs on the rice grains while still in the warehouse or silos. Since the larva will need food to sustain themselves after hatching, maggot flies usually lay their eggs in sites with enough food. Rice grains in the silos or warehouses provide a favorable environment to lay eggs.
The grains containing maggot eggs are stored in packages, and you buy them from the supermarket or food markets. However, these maggot eggs are harmless and are minute to be seen by naked eyes.
How it happens
When you leave the dry rice in a container with enough oxygen at room temperature, the eggs get favorable conditions to promote hatchling. They, therefore, hatch to form maggot larvae.
The larvae are usually whitish or grayish and resemble a caterpillar worm. The most common maggot in your rice is the Indianmeal moth, scientifically called Plodia interpunctella. Their color ranges from whitish, grayish, orange, pink, or greenish.
Maggots or larvae continue feeding on the rice until they enter an inactive stage where they are called nymphs and become adults, known as fly maggots. Fly maggots exist for 30days, during which they lay eggs to form more larvae that continue the cycle in favorable conditions for hatching.
Soon, you will see your rice covered in larvae maggots, which continue feeding on the rice.
Maggots in old or cooked rice
Old rice that has expired and started fermenting provides a suitable environment for larvae to thrive. These insects love dirty stale foods and will hatch their eggs on old rice to form larvae.
Maggots larvae can also exist in cooked rice. Two situations can encourage fly maggots to lay their eggs on cooked rice. When you leave your cooked rice open, fly maggots will come and lay their eggs on them in seconds.
Also, poorly preserved rice that has stayed for long can go stale and encourage fly maggots to lay their eggs on them. As earlier established, maggots thrive in fermented, decaying foods. They also love uncovered cooked rice, which gives them moist conditions to thrive. Once settled, they hatch their eggs to form maggots larvae.
Whether dry, cooked, or expired, all types of rice can have maggots larvae, which later develop to fly maggots. Maggots can get into a container with cooked rice that is rotting or going bad. The foul odor attracts flies that lay eggs that hatch into larvae as long as there is a gap or a crack around the seal.
After how long do maggots appear in rice?
Maggots get in rice in the form of eggs fly maggots lay when the rice grains are in the warehouse before packaging. When you keep the rice in a container with oxygen at room temperature, the eggs hatch to form larvae, seen as whitish, caterpillar-like worms called maggots. The larvae later develop into adult fly maggots.
Maggots take about 24 hours up to several days to appear on the rice. When a fly maggot releases an egg on a bowl of uncovered cooked rice or old fermented rice, the eggs quickly hatch to form maggot or larvae. Sometimes the eggs take several days to hatch, depending on temperatures, oxygen availability, and the food’s nature.
How to get rid of maggots in the rice
Maggots will often reinfest rice in favorable conditions even after removal. Fly maggots lay their eggs on surfaces, hatching to form larvae, continuing the cycle.
Maggots’ reinfestation destroys preserved rice, and you will spend more money replacing them. Therefore, it’s vital to prevent maggot re-infestation after getting rid of them. Here are the most effective ways to prevent maggots from covering your rice again.
1. Freeze the rice before storage
Maggots eggs hatch at room temperature in the presence of oxygen. But when exposed to higher or lower temperatures, the eggs die and don’t hatch.
A freezer contains cool temperatures that kill the eggs, preventing them from forming larvae.
Immediately you get your rice from the supermarket, freeze it before storing it away in the pantry. Remove the rice from the package, put it in containers, and store it in the freezer. Typically, a freezer can take 4 to 8 hours or up to 7days to kill the larvae eggs, depending on the amount of rice in the container.
After freezing the rice to kill the eggs, put it at room temperature to condense and prevent moisture build-up during storage. Store the rice in a sealed container.
2. Heat the rice
Heating works similarly to freezing; they use temperature to kill the maggot eggs before hatching them into larvae. Heating exposes the eggs to higher temperatures to kill them.
Heat the rice in a microwave or an oven. Place the rice in an oven tray to heat it for some time. There is some buzz over the amount of heat and how long to heat the rice. While some people advise heating at a temperature of 120oF for two hours, others claim to heat the rice at 140oF for about 15 minutes kills the larvae.
Try the different times and heats to find what works best for you. On your first heating, try using small amounts of rice to find the right balance.
3. Use oxygen absorbers
Oxygen absorbers are small sachets containing particles that draw oxygen from substances. Maggot eggs need oxygen to hatch into larvae maggots. In the absence of oxygen, they wouldn’t hatch.
Place oxygen absorber packets in the container used to store the rice. Don’t pour the product on the rice. Don’t ingest the absorber as it can lead to severe problems such as poisoning. Oxygen absorbers are the best remedy to store large amounts of rice for a long time.
4. Store the rice in airtight containers
Use glass, metal, and thick plastic containers to store rice to prevent maggots infestation. These materials don’t allow larvae from the other areas to invade the rice.
When storing the rice in those containers, you want to tighten the lid to block air from getting in. Air has oxygen, encouraging the maggot eggs to hatch into larvae, thus infestation.
Avoid using light plastic or cardboard boxes to store rice as maggots can easily chew and penetrate them to get into the rice.
5. Spray boric acid or borax
Borax and boric acid are everyday household items you can use to keep insects away. They contain toxic substances that instantly kill insects and keep them away.
Before storing your rice, spray boric acid or borax in the pantry area to repel maggots and prevent them from infesting the rice.
· Penn State Extension: Indian Meal Moth.
· Clemson University: Pantry Pests.