Tag Archives: moths

Decameron 2020: Exponential Splat

Exponential Splat
By Bill Meelayter

This is just a pretty photo to catch your eye. It has nothing to do with the story. Sorry.

Splat! The broom-flattened moth dropped to the kitchen floor as a brown-gray powdered clump the size of a nickel, leaving a dark stain on the ceiling. That’s weird, I got one yesterday too. I guess two got in. I hope there aren’t more. Probably not, I worry about worst-case scenarios so quickly. What if there’s a pregnant one or a female and a male?

The next day: shit, there’s a problem! Got three today, but a fourth one fluttered from my pounce and hid.

The next day: about the same as yesterday. I think it’s three or four more kills and one miss today. Great batting average, but sports statistics are linear, population growth is exponential.

Our kitchen is an unsettling topography of clutter, dilapidation and mess – consistent with the decor of our centuried, little wood-frame house with the L tracks running through and above the uneven, weedy patch of backyard. I examine all five rooms upstairs and the entire basement. The only moths I’ve seen are in the kitchen, usually on the ceiling or high on a wall, sometimes lower.

Days later: killed several more every day. My wife, Honey, also got two or three. This is clearly getting worse. Peak prevalence occurs usually about an hour after sundown. Moth hunting has joined our list of quotidian tasks, but whack-a- mole (aka, splat-a-moth) strategy is not enough.

If hard to reach, I splat them with a broom. I can reach others by standing on the counter or a ladder and use a trap-and- crush technique with a paper towel. This helps prevent splat stains, of which there are already many. Our two cats are astonished to see such a large primate up so high. The more careful method carries the risk of escape, so the broom remains in the arsenal. I clean the surface after each splat, but it’s not enough. Parts of the ceiling and walls evolve into a deranged Jackson Pollock hellscape.

Honey agrees to throw out some extraneous miscellaneous and also help clean. I ask her if I can throw out this cardboard box full of stuff sitting on top of the fridge. “No, I want to keep that!” but she lets me move it to the storage room downstairs below the kitchen.

We’ve been through worse struggles against indoor pests. This is nowhere near the horror of the rat invasion of 2002, or even the short-lived, but extremely disturbing 1997 horsefly swarm. But this is pretty bad and is now a more difficult protracted campaign than most.

Thanks to the internet, I’ve identified the problem as “pantry moth infestation”. I read more of the entomology. I’ve also removed some weird worm things, which are caterpillars, and also silky stuff of residual cocoons. Sometimes, in one swoop I kill two mating. We vaguely count daily numbers: I killed 12 moths, 3 caterpillars, Honey got 4 moths.

Finally, I find a box of cereal with moths feasting inside. I throw it into the garbage bin outside, below the L tracks. At last, some optimism that I’ve attacked a root cause. But next day: a few more moths. Maybe this is just a lag, stragglers at the tail end that can be defeated one-by-one.

Days later: We’re hunting many per day, every day and night. One night I killed over twenty. My demanding job leaves little free time, anyway. As days turn to weeks, much of my time is spent on this stupid, disgusting quagmire. I repeatedly search the house for population spread. Honey and I scour kitchen surfaces and search for answers in cabinets, boxes and bags, occasionally triggering an avalanche of clutter.

I am depressed to think this is our new normal. Money is tight, and even on principle, I don’t want to hire an exterminator to solve something we should be able to fix ourselves. I imagine myself as a horrible monster from the moth community’s perspective, with the imitation Pollock as Exhibit A in my moth court trial. I’m certainly committing sin according to some religions. Tolerating the infestation is a greater evil in my judgement. Of course, I’m a sinner even without my recent actions of moth murder.

We can solve this, we just need to locate moth central. I look in the basement storage room again. I flash a light through the oblong, jagged hole in the ceiling for the pipes that lead up to the kitchen sink. I still don’t see any moths. I step back. Clutter can overwhelm, obscure the obvious. On top of two boxes, on top of two crates, is a box. It’s the box I put here weeks ago, and inside of it, I notice silky evidence, and inside a bag, inside the box, is an incubator mother lode. Honey grants me permission to throw it all away, laughing at the absurdity of my sarcastic question.

I was overly optimistic before, but this looks promising. Time will tell. After a few consecutive moth-free days, it looks like the nightmare is over. A week later I declare “mission accomplished” as new problems accumulate: our friend Aaron is in the hospital, our car has an oil leak, Honey’s computer crashed, a cat is puking. Will we ever transmogrify our kitchen? Improve our squalid lifestyle? Learn anything? Well-intentioned hopes flutter away and hide as the phone calls me back to work, deadlines to meet, worried about Aaron.

Editor’s Note: Bill is another close friend of the website, and this is his first appearance on our Drippy Musings. Welcome to the storied fun, Bill, and thank you for your submission.