Not all bugs in rice are reddish browns like rice weevils, flour beetles, and grain beetles.
There are some bugs in rice that are white and tiny. These bugs are either grain mites or larvae of the rice bugs.
This guide will reveal how flour mites and the rice bugs’ larvae reach your stored rice. You’ll also find out what other types of stored foods these bugs infest.
Plus, there are hacks that you can implement right now to eliminate these white bugs in rice and keep your kitchen storage secure from these bugs.
Grain Mites – The Most Common Tiny White Bugs In Rice
Grain mites are tiny white microscopic mites that infest stored food like rice, flour, cereals, and even baked foods.
Grain mites are common pantry pests that grow anywhere between 0.013 inches and 0.017 inches in size. And they’re impossible to spot when their numbers are low.
Under the microscope, grain mites look like tiny grayish-white bugs with soft, shiny bodies and white legs.
Grain mites feed on the molds that form on the grains because of excessive moisture in the storage section.
The type of mold affects the color of the grain mites. So, when these mites feed on the black molds that form on hard surfaces like floors and walls, they appear as a dusty layer of tiny gray bugs.
But when they feed on the molds of the rice grains, which are white, they’re tiny white bugs that look like dirt on rice grains and packets.
When grain mites infest flour, they are known as flour mites.
The point to note here is that grain mites, flour mites, mold mites, and even wood mites are all the same. The difference in their names is dependent on the places and things where you find them.
Coming back to grain mites, you must know what their sources are.
There are two sources of grain mites – the grocery store and the molds in your kitchen storage.
Believe it or not, most grain bags and packets in grocery stores have grain mites. It’s because they get the supplies from the big grain houses where these pantry pests are widespread.
They’ll sneak inside the grain bags through the holes and thin gaps. And they’ll start to feed on the grains and lay eggs on them.
And when you buy those grain packets and bring them home, you bring the grain mites home.
The second is the molds that form on the moldy surfaces in your kitchen.
Damp surfaces attract mold mites. These mold mites will sneak inside the rice and flour storage jars if you follow improper storage practices and use substandard storage jars.
Once grain mites are in the stored grains in your kitchen, they’ll start to lay eggs and feed on the grains.
A single female grain mite can lay up to 800 eggs. And the time of the eggs hatching and the grain mite larva turning into adult grain mites ready to breed is only 2-3 weeks.
So, in such a short time, they multiply beyond control. And that causes the grain mites to spill over from the food jars and appear on the kitchen pantry shelves.
Grain mites appear as a layer of dust on the kitchen cupboards and pantry shelves. That layer of dust is also known as mites dust.
The rice grains with grain mites appear as dusty, and there’s a yellowish hue on the grains.
Grain mites in flour make the flour appear light brownish, and you can also smell a minty odor from the flour when you sniff at the flour.
Later in the post, you’ll find out if the rice and the flour with grain mites are safe to eat.
For now, let’s find out another set of white bugs in rice which are in the form of worms.
White Worms In Rice – The Larvae Of Bugs Like Rice Weevils And Flour Beetles
Bugs in rice are not always in the form of matured bugs. Some bugs are in the form of worms too.
These worms, which are whitish-yellow, are the larvae of the bugs that infest rice. So, the worms can be rice weevils, psocids mites, grain beetles, and flour beetles.
There are two ways these worms can get inside the stored food of your kitchen pantry.
The first source of these worms and adult bugs is that they’re present in the grain bags you buy from the grocery stores.
As we mentioned earlier, the big grain houses always have pantry bugs in their storage.
As these bugs are harmless, many grain houses don’t bother to treat them.
And bugs like rice weevils, flour weevils, and rice moths (Indianmeal moths) have strong mouthparts that they use to chew through the plastic and cardboard packaging.
They get inside the grain bags on the shelves and start eating the grains and laying eggs on them.
When you bring those grain bags home and pour the grains inside the storage jars without checking the packet for bugs, you bring those bugs into your kitchen.
That’s a bad way of storing grains. It leads to a full-blown pantry pest infestation in your kitchen even though it is clean and free from bugs.
Second, many rice bugs are strong fliers and are present outdoors. And the light from the light bulbs of your home and kitchen also attracts these bugs.
So, bugs like weevils, flour beetles, and rice moths will fly inside your home from the outdoors by following the light source. It’s a common problem in places with tropical climates.
Once inside, the rice bugs will target your kitchen pantry to feed on the stored grains and lay eggs on them. They’re active during the summer months when these bugs breed and are ready to lay eggs.
However, rice weevils are also moisture bugs. It means that moist and damp places also attract them.
So, you can see the weevils in your bathroom too.
Rice bugs target stored foods because their larvae also feed on grains.
If you don’t remove those rice bugs and their larvae, then the larvae will finish their entire lifecycle, which is pupae and maturing into an adult ready to breed, inside the storage jars.
The infestation will spread to other stored food containers in your kitchen.
Grain beetles, flour beetles, and psocids mites or booklice will lay their eggs on the rice. But the rice weevils will lay their eggs inside the rice grains.
Rice weevils have a long snout which they use to suck out the nutrients of the rice. That leads to the formation of a hole in the rice grains.
Rice weevils will also lay their eggs inside the hole and seal it with their saliva.
The rice bugs can be in any type of rice. So, rice like white rice, brown rice, boiled rice, jasmine rice, and basmati rice are also vulnerable to attack from the rice weevils.
When it hatches out of the egg, the larva will break through the seal and start to feed on the rice grains.
The larvae of the rice bugs will also defecate on the rice. And their feces will appear as chunks of white, rough, surfaced balls on the rice grains.
The food bugs cause damage to the stored rice and food grains. The signs of damage are holes in the grains, stench, crawling white worms, and fecal droppings of the larvae.
It’s not the rice weevils and their larvae that can infest rice grains, flour, and other stored foods.
Flour beetles, grain beetles, psocids mites, drugstore beetles, and saw-toothed beetles are the tiny bugs in rice that are not weevils.
How To Get Rid Of White Bugs In Rice?
In most cases, grain mites and rice bugs don’t contaminate the rice they infest. So, you can get rid of bugs and worms in rice without throwing away the rice.
Pour the rice with bugs into a container and use your hair dryer on the rice for 2-3 minutes. The heat from the hair dryer will kill many bugs in the rice, including their larvae.
Then pour water on the rice. The dead bugs will float on the water.
Discard the water with dead bugs. And spread the wet rice on a piece of fabric, like a bedsheet, and let it dry in the sun.
The rice is now safe to eat.
Two ways always work when it comes to getting rid of white bugs in flour.
First, put the flour in an oven at medium heat for 20 minutes. That’ll kill the bugs in flour.
Second, you can put the flour in the freezer to eliminate the pests in the flour.
These white worms and their adults can’t survive the cold inside the freezer.
However, with flour, it can be a bit tricky. The minty odor can remain despite getting rid of the bugs in the flour.
That is a sign that the flour has become too stale, and it’ll be best to discard it.
Take the steps below to ensure that bugs don’t infest your stored food –
- Control the moisture in your home and kitchen by fixing leaking pipes
- Don’t buy food packets with holes and dusty layers on the packaging. It’s a sign of grain mites and indicates that bugs and larvae might be inside the packet.
- Pour the grains into a bowl and inspect for bugs and larvae before putting them in the storage containers.
- Thoroughly clean your kitchen and ensure there are no food grains, stains, and crumbs in the kitchen countertops, pantry shelves, and storage.
- Use thick and strong BPA-free grain storage jars to prevent bugs from breaking into them.
- Remove molds in the walls, storage, and shelves with a mold cleaner. That’ll remove the molds and mites too.
- Keep bay leaves on the kitchen storage shelves. They repel the pantry bugs and stop them from attacking your stored grains.
- Keep sticky pantry fly traps in your kitchen. They work wonders in luring flies, moths, and weevils into your kitchen and entrapping them.
The white bugs in rice are grain mites, and the larvae of rice bugs are the rice weevils, flour beetles, and rice moths.
These white bugs in rice are present due to the higher moisture content in your kitchen and buying food and grain packets with bugs inside them.
So, do not buy grain bags and food packets with a dusty layer and holes.
Keep the moisture in your kitchen under control and follow the steps laid out in the post to keep the bugs away from your stored food.
Thomas Orbert is a PhD in entomology with specialization in tiny and microscopic pests. Thomas is a regular contributor to our site and shares failproof methods to get rid of small pests.