Adventures With Moths
So, today I’m going to talk about...moths.
Moths? you say. Moths! I reply.
Specifically, pantry moths, which have recently made my life sheer, unadulterated heck. (I’d say hell, but this is a family blog, meant for readers of refined sensibilities. That would be you. And I don’t want your ears to blush. Nothing is finer than unblushed ears. I’ve always said so. Wouldn’t you agree?)
Anyway, the pantry moths...
Background: we moved to Texas about a year ago. We are still getting used to things. Like the animals. There are deer in every backyard here, and they can be damn aggressive, eating flower gardens and drop-kicking dogs over the rooftops. And squirrels. They’re aggressive, too. I had one yesterday, I swear! It gave me the finger while ripping off the bird feeder.
And the bugs. Particularly the bugs. Like cockroaches. Okay, they call ‘em palmetto bugs ‘round these parts. But I know a roach when I see one. And these are huge! I mean, you could saddle ‘em up and ride ‘em to work in the morning. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration...but not by much.
But the pantry moths showed up a few weeks back. One morning, we got up and found a bunch of tiny little moths scattered about the house. Not tons. Maybe ten. We had no idea where they came from, but I swatted the lot of them (left horrible brown stains wherever I got one) and we figured that was the end of the story.
The Pantry Moth
Except...the next morning, there were twenty more moths in the house. They were on the walls. On the ceiling. Again, more swatting. And, again, the following day, another batch of moths...maybe thirty, this time. And, after that, forty.
It was getting just a wee bit spooky. (Oh, and by the way, if you find yourself in a similar situation, the best way to deal with them is not swatting, which does lead to those nasty stains. Better is to get a vacuum cleaner with a long hose and an attachment. They go whishing down into the filter with a kind of flurping sound. Very satisfying, really. You know you’re accomplishing something.)
By this time, of course, we realized we had a problem and I looked up moths on the web. Sure enough, “pantry moths” came up right away. I read that they...or, rather, their disgusting little larvae (think worm with an attitude problem)...really love a variety of mostly grain-based foods, to wit: cereal, flour, dried fruit, pasta, nuts, powered milk, and...
Oh, darn, I thought, and went tramping into the kitchen where I began a careful examination of all our boxes, bins, bags, sacks, cans, jars, repositories, and what not that might contain any of the above. Turned out we had a lot of those. I spent a charming Saturday afternoon going through white flour, whole wheat flour, corn meal, gluten-free flour, white sugar, brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, potato starch, powdered milk, oat meal, tapioca, mixed nuts, flaxseed, brown rice, white rice, assorted teas, and something called “Xanthan Gum” and I haven’t the slightest idea what that is but I’m guessing it is the favorite chewable of some extraterrestrial version of Bazooka Joe.
And, of course, I discovered absolutely nothing. Not a moth. Not a grub. Not a larva. Nothing.
But, while I was busily wasting time on Xanthan Gum, etc., Martha was back reading the article I’d found on pantry moths. There, she spotted the one thing I had forgotten--Bird Seed.
Yikes, she said.
Martha loves birds. She’s had bird feeders in the backyard for years. But, here, more than anywhere we’ve lived, she’s had a problem. The hyper-aggressive squirrels keep raiding the feeders. She dealt with that by putting red pepper in the feed (birds don’t mind it. Mammals do) and Vaseline on the feeder poles. Great entertainment, really. Watching the squirrels go slip-sliding away, and usually cursing like a 105-year-old sailor with a dirty mind.
But, of course, you can’t keep the bird seed on the porch, where the squirrels can get at it, so she put into to very large plastic containers and put them in the kitchen in otherwise wasted space between the table and the windows. She now hurried in to check the aforesaid containers.
Then, she came to me. “Ah, Michael...” she said, with a curiously tense tone in her voice.
You can guess the rest, of course. I followed her into the kitchen and looked at the containers. I remember one of them had a transparent top, and it was crawling...crawling!...with moths. There must have been hundreds of them. Or, more likely, thousands.
I said something articulate like Oh, gross! and did my best to run the containers into the backyard, except naturally, the lids didn’t close tightly (that’s how they got out of the containers and into the house in the first place), so as I ran I trailed a little stream of moths.
Then, when I did get the containers outside, I tried to pour the seed and the little beasts into black plastic garbage bags...which, of course, resulted in a huge cloud of moths that basically covered the backyard...and me.
When Martha came out...after I’d tied off the garbage bags...she took one look at me, said, “Oh, Dear,” and then began picking moths out of my hair and off my ears.
Okay, so that was the fun part.
I spent the next few days doing everything I could to get the moths that had gotten into the house out of it again. This involved washing down every exposed surface I could find with a solution of bleach and water. Then, I went outside and sprayed wherever it seemed that the moths might have gotten in. Then, I washed down (again) the inside surfaces, this time using a mixture of water, vinegar, and peppermint oil, which, it seems, moths hate. The peppermint oil was the best part. As I wrote to somebody, the whole house smelled like a candy factory. Not such a bad thing.
I put out pheromone scent traps--these emit a sexual attractant that lures lust-crazed male moths to what they think is a hot chick ready to rumble but which is, in fact, merely a sticky and lingering death. There is a metaphor there, but I don’t think I want to pursue it. Makes me nervous.
And, finally, I’ve been swatting, slapping, or vacuuming any moths I’ve seen. Hey. It’s a hobby. And we’re in lockdown because of Covid. So, keeps me off the streets.
As of today, I think we’ve got ‘em on the run. We’re not quite done with the beasts. We still see maybe five or so each day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening. But, it’s four, not forty, and so I’m hoping that in a few weeks...particularly if I keep bleaching and pepperminting at regular intervals...we’ll be back to normal.
If only it worked on certain politicians I could name.
Onward and upward.