I took out a box of rice needed for the Cajun Sausage Jambalaya that my family asked me to cook. As I set it on the counter, I saw some pale-colored insect with wings crawling out of the rice grain. Do I throw out the rice, or can I still use it to feed the family?
There is no danger in eating cooked rice that has moth or larvae. Rice moths do not carry any disease, pathogen, or parasite that can harm humans. Cooked rice kills any bacteria from the larvae’s webbing or frass and becomes an edible protein substance.
Eating cooked rice will not change its flavor even if there were eggs or larvae in the grains.
There are ways to prevent rice moths from infesting your food and your pantry, but you must be vigilant to transfer all dried foods into air-tight and hard-cased containers before storing them in your pantry.
What is a Rice Moth?
A rice moth is a light brown winged insect that lays eggs with larvae has translucent wings, while the larvae are yellowish-white white bodies with a brown head.
The rice moth has an active season from March to November, then stays dormant as larvae during winter.
The rice moth is almost the same size as a pantry moth but has different behaviors.
It is found worldwide in South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is an agricultural threat as it attacks grains in the field and stored harvested grain.
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Rice Moth Life Cycle
The female moth lays up to 62-150 eggs while alive for 24 days. The eggs hatch within 4-7 days and start to make strong webbings, then form a dense cocoon to pupate for the next 9-14 days. The pupa climbs its way out to become a flying adult and live for only 1-2 weeks.
The rice moth lives an average of 33-52 days. The life cycle completes six generations of rice moth in a year.
What do Rice Moth Eat?
The larvae and pupa of a rice moth will feed on broken rice grains where they use as their dwelling place. The rice moth eats rice grains, but it also eats oil seeds, cacao beans, dried fruit, and spices.
Are Moths in Rice Safe to Eat?
For many decades people have been eating rice, straight from harvest or given as a share of ration from a village harvest.
Conditions then involved harvesting, drying, and distribution. People would bring their grains held in sackcloth or jar then cook whatever rice they needed.
So far, there are no findings on humans of any known disease, parasite, or pathogen that comes from pantry moths. It may be uncomfortable to think about, but history will prove that our forefathers never paid attention to things like these.
When you wash or rinse the rice grain three times, the moths or bus will float in the water, allowing visible moths taken out when drained of water.
The eggs, larvae, and the frass, will be cooked along with the rice without noticing any change in taste.
Are Pantry Moths Harmful?
A pantry moth is also known as the Indian Meal Moth, is the most troublesome pest that infests stored products.
Pantry moths attack cereal products, nuts, whole grains, dried fruits, powdered milk, and even pet food. But they are harmless to humans as they do not bite nor bring any infectious disease into their bodies.
Pantry moths lay eggs and take 30-275 days to hatch, depending on the environmental conditions. At room temperature, the larvae spin a strong web to protect the pupae or maggots. Once they hatch into mini-moths, the shell or frass is left behind.
What happens If You Eat Pantry Moth Larvae?
There have been no reported deaths due to rice infection or sickness to this day. The only harm it can do is multiply in numbers causing an infestation that would be inconvenient and annoying to deal with the problem.
How do Moths get into Rice?
If you see maggots or rice moths in your rice, it means the grain has been sitting on the grocery shelf for more than a month. The eggs are just about to hatch and go through the larval and pupal stages of a rice moth.
Other cases involve dry foods such as cereal, powdered milk, or even pet food. These insects hitched through the carton boxes of dry foods and did their mutation in the different food items.
How to Protect Rice from Moths?
Understanding the life cycle of a rice moth and its behavior makes you extra careful in handling rice and dry foods.
Knowing that rice and rice moths have a symbiotic relationship will make you treat the whole issue in a straight-forward and no-fuss approach.
- Transfer rice and all other dry foods into air-tight and hard-cased containers. This will contain any moths from escaping their source as adult moths.
- Freeze the rice grain for four days, then air-dry to take out any moisture before storing it in an air-tight container.
- Heat rice grains in a microwave at high temperature for five minutes to kill any eggs or larvae that came in with the carton.
- Bake the rice grain at 120°-140°F for two hours to kill any eggs or larvae presence in rice. Before storing, allow the rice to cool down to avoid condensation in the container.
- You can use oxygen absorbers that take out moisture and eliminate any oxygen that the eggs or larvae need to develop.
How to Get Rid of Moths in the House?
Sanitation and periodic checking of the pantry and food cupboards will go a long way in preventing infestation of rice and pantry moths.
- When you buy a bag of rice, try to check if there is any indication of delivery date or consumption due date. Try to buy the one with the latest delivery to ensure fresh rice.
- Periodically check the contents of all dry food packaging. These include rice, cereals, dried corn, powdered milk, nuts, etc. Place these items in individual air-tight and hard-case containers to contain any eggs or larvae within each product from crossing over.
- Rice and other dry foods heated in the microwave under radiofrequency for five minutes at a high temperature will kill any eggs or larvae of rice grains.
- Transfer the rice into a freezer bag and leave it in the freezer for four days to kill any eggs or larvae. Wait until rice is under room temperature and air-dry before transferring it to an air-tight and hard-cased container.
- Vacuum the shelves and pantry floor of any grain that might have fallen out.
- Wipe clean the pantry shelves with water mixed with vinegar or water mixed with tea tree oil as an antibacterial solution.
- Use a natural spray solution of water with citrus fruits or water with tea tree essential oil. You can do a regular spray in the pantry to ward off any rice moths or pantry moths from hanging out in the area.
- Use sticky traps baited with a pheromone to attract the male rice moth and stop the mating process with a female.
How to prevent maggots in rice?
Heating rice in the microwave oven for five minutes at a high temperature will kill any larvae and stop them from building a dense web for the maggot to grow in rice.
Rice moth control
Transfer your rice grain in an air-tight and hard-cased container with an oxygen absorber that will take out any moisture and oxygen needed for the eggs to hatch and go through their larval and pupal development.
Worms in rice safe to eat
The worms or maggots otherwise known as the pupae of the rice moth are safe to eat and have no recorded bad effects on humans. When cooked, the worms in rice become an added protein substance.
I wrote a complete guide on pantry pests. Please check it here.