Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Moth is This?

The reason I love the library book sales is that you never know what treasure you might find. The last sale, back in October, I happened across a wonderful book called Pictures and Stories from Forgotten Children's Books by Arnold Arnold. The book is out of print now, but it was from the Dover Pictorial Archive series. I have a weakness for these old stories with their pen and ink drawings and their harsh lesson stories that make no apology for attempting to scare kids straight. Marina found a wonderful story in this book called Fanny Overkind. Fanny tries very hard to be kind, but it never works out as she intends. Here is an example:

Fanny had a nett(sic) made to cover her flowers and keep the chickens away; but if she had not put the nett over her garden the plants would not have died as they did: for the chickens, and birds, were only picking off the caterpillars and bugs: that would eat the young plants. But Fanny did not know that...

I wish I had read the Fanny Overkind stories sooner. We might not have had the problems we had over the holidays. I'm thinking about that first time I saw a little white worm inching its way across the kitchen ceiling. It looked so fragile. I didn't want to kill it, so I asked hubby to put it outside (because a November chill would have been so much better for it.) I think he didn't hear me. Whatever the case, in the midst of holiday preparations, we started to notice the moths.

It was only a few at first. The cats, as inept as they are, couldn't catch them. They were too fast. I was worried about them getting into our closets and eating our clothes. Bad naturalist. I was so busy I wasn't being observant. I wasn't noticing little things, like the fact that every time I opened my baking cabinet, a moth flew out. And the fact that the bag of cornmeal I threw out had a strange stringy appearance that didn't really look moldy.

I had been stocking my baking cabinet for about a month in preparation for holiday baking. Luckily, the extra flour wasn't stored there and the flour we use was in a sealed container. Except that my son is not neat in the kitchen and has a penchant for making pancakes on Saturday morning. That's why there was flour on the shelf of the cabinet. We had created a perfect environment for mealworms. So in the midst of holiday baking, I ended up tossing half of my supplies and starting over. I found cocoons in boxes. I found nests in the corners of the shelves. It was my own little holiday horror show. I'm still checking cabinets at this point. Even though I did a thorough job of cleaning, I worry about them coming back. Not so worried anymore about killing the poor, helpless worm. I learned that lesson. On the bright side, our birds had a holiday feast and my baking cabinet is clean and organized.

You may be wondering how all this started. I was at the pet store one day looking for crickets for the anole. I couldn't find any, but I remembered that the woman who sold us the lizard said you could feed them mealworms. I had never done this before, but I figured Lizzie would enjoy the variety. Imagine my surprise when I opened the mealworm container at home and a moth flew out. It scared the bejeebers out of me--I'm pretty sure I screamed--but I thought nothing of it until I was fighting for my baking supplies. I don't think any of us even attempted to catch it.

Lizzie is back to eating only crickets and mashed bananas and I am wiser with a new life lesson from watching animals....(and I have no picture to share this time, as we have no more moths)

The smallest problem can become a big one if you don't take care of it right away.


Stephanie said...

Very true! :-) We used to feed our anoles crickets, and we fed the crickets mealworms, I think. A whole food chain in action.

Amy said...

when my pantry once had an infestation of mealworms (the larvae can hide out in food packaging!), i cleaned very thoroughly and then put everything that wasn't in a can or a jar into a sealed plastic zip-top bag... the mealworm eggs can be laid in the cardboard of your boxes with no trace on the outside... i remember throwing out all my boxes and putting the contents into labeled bags. would you believe that a few of the bags eventually showed webs and mealworms inside the bags!! but i never did have a mealworm problem after that.

thank you for your blog! i read it from my bloglines. i am new to homeschooling (1 1/2 years), have three kids and adopted three indoor cats last may (we also have one 100%-outdoor one). with those things in common, i enjoy your blog!

jugglingpaynes said...

Stephanie: Well no wonder the anole didn't want them! Obviously she doesn't eat her food's food!
Amy: So happy to hear from you! And yes, we discovered that not only could they get into the boxes, they managed to squeeze in between the threading on some of my spice jars. What a mess to clean up! Ick! I'm never purposely bringing them in the house again!

~*~The Family~*~ said...

The smallest problem can become a big one if you don't take care of it right away. This should be my mantra!

Inner Elder said...

I remember how surprised I was to discover moths liked flour and lots of other edibles, and not just sweaters. Maybe you were too young to remember when that happened. It is frustrating and now we've discovered ants in our boxes. Yes, even though it's freezing outside. Love, Mom

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