Insects in a completely sealed bag of powdered drink mix. Why are they alive?

I have a bag of “horchata” (imported from El Salvador) which I bought from a Latin market here in NJ. I bought it about two years ago, stuck it in the shelf and kind of forgot about it.

A couple of months ago, while cleaning, I found it again and I thought, hey, horchata, let’s make some of this!

As I was inspecting the bag I saw a bunch of bugs burrowing around the powder. Yikes. How is it possible that an insect can survive in a closed environment like that? It’s been in a dark shelf the whole time! I still have the bag and I check it periodically to see if the critters are still burrowing around and they certainly are.

I’ve heard of anaerobic bacteria but not insects!

Is it a paper bag? It is porouse.
And they were probably laid in there as eggs. Quite possibly they hatched fairly recently?

Even plastic bags aren’t completely sealed from the outside world. The bugs (or eggs) were probably in the bag from the beginning and simply hatched and managed to stay alive on the food and any oxygen that permeated through the plastic.

I really can spell “porous”. :smack: Suddenly I feel like Dan Quayle.

it’s a plastic bag. Doesn’t feel like flimsy plastic either. You’d have trouble opening it with your hands.

I’m thinking they’ve been hatching continuously the whole time. I can see them geting sustenance from the horchata (it’s got rice and other crushed things in it), but where’s the oxygen coming from?

When I get home I’m taking a look at the bag to see if there’s any “packaged on” date stamp.

This is the only plausible explanation I can come up with. I’m going to wrap the bag in a good layer of aluminum foil and stash the bag away for another six months or so. That should be enough right?

No, oxygen will still make it into the bag.

Fill your sink with water.

Stick a jar into the water so there’s no air in it.

Stuff the bg into the jar (while it’s still under water)

Replace the lid (while it’s still under water)

If they live more than 2 weeks, call NASA.

Yeah, someone will then say that they get the oxygen from the water like fish do :smiley:

You may be overestimating the oxygen requirement of those critters. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they simply hadn’t run out of the oxygen in the bag yet.

This is such an intriguing post… I can’t wait for an update!

Spontaneous generation, clearly. Horchata is just loaded with pneuma!

But seriously, there had to have either been enough oxygen in the bag to begin with, or enough is getting through the seal to sustain them. Tiny insect don’t consume much of the stuff.

well I inspected the bag again and it seems to have a tiny leak somewhere. Had to squeeze it moderately hard but air is getting out. The bugs are not as visible anymore. I shook the bag for a few minutes before I could see one of the suckers. I plan on wasting a roll of clear plastic tape on it to seal any leaks. Then I shall seal the bag within water as suggested. We’ll see if those suckers survive after a month.

Look at bed bugs, you have to seal them up in plastic and they can live for 18 months.

Pantry moths (the larvae i think) can chew through quite hefty plastic packaging

What about water? I would have thought the limiting factor would be water, not oxygen. Do they get it from the air?


Get the bag out of the house. Burn it. Bury it in salt. Pour six feet of concrete on top.

Pantry moths is what I assumed it was. The are very difficult to get rid of.

Can you really get plastic tape to be 100% watertight, especially under water for a month? I’d go with a jar, as someone suggested earlier, or a Tupperware-type container. Wouldn’t want to accidentally drown them.