15 August 2011

Eat, or Be Eaten

For the past four years I have moved three times to three different cities in two states. I have also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and started and completed graduate school. Amid all this change and growth, one thing has remained reliable and constant: every time I open my kitchen cabinets, no matter what state I am in, I get a face full of moths.

While their numbers have risen and fallen depending on the season, and their food preference is remarkably diverse, I am always able to find at least one soft-winged bastard (or its poop) in my house.

In 2008, when the initial infestation began, I can’t say I was surprised. Richard and I were living in a budget apartment that was frequented by multiple residential pests. With the occasional cockroach scuttling across the counter, and houseflies venturing in from the all-too-near compost pile, what’s one more winged invader? Their original interest was brown rice. They chewed through the plastic and had their way with my future dinner.

My first thought was to get rid of whatever they had managed to penetrate. But when you live with a person who believes that food waste is what will really send you to hell, dumping food with some bugs in it is not an option. (Side note: Richard is so opposed to wasting food that I got chewed out when I washed a room temperature, half-full cup of tea down the sink instead of reheating it and consuming it.) So we kept the rice, and they flour when they expanded and upgraded their accommodations.

When it came time to pack up and move to another part of the country for school, we brought along the dry goods from our pantry, and inadvertently, the moth habitat. While our rice and flour supplies had been consumed and replaced with better-protected contents, the moths had moved on to our sesame seeds, dried fruit, and corn meal. They particularly took to the gallon bags of dried apples that we had harvested and preserved from our own apple trees.

By the time we made it to our current city, we had permanently relocated some of the pantry contents to the freezer in an attempt to rid our selves of these pests. Unfortunately, it is summer. And they love the heat. In the past few months I have found them in unopened granola bars, cracker packets, and backpacking food rations. They have chewed through every plastic and paper bag that holds food that not too salty and not too sweet. They seem to stay away from hot chocolate mix and tortilla chips, but I have found larvae cocooned under the lip of the peanut butter jar lid. That’s not including the times when the adults flutter drunkenly around the house exploring their boundaries and testing my nerves.

Mediterranean Flour Moth and Larvae (Source:

Indian Meal Moth (Source:
As best I can tell from a quick look on, we’re dealing with the Mediterranean Flour Moth, or the Indian Meal Moth. Either way, I kill on sight.

I have tried to eradicate them as best I can without completely violating my partner’s food waste ethics. As of now the plan is to wait until winter and then move all our dry goods outside for a day and freeze any lingerers. I have also vowed not to take any more pantry contents on the next move. Eat it, or donate it, Richard. I’m not giving those guys any more free room and board.

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