Archive for August, 2009

Attacking the Pantry Moths

Monday, August 10th, 2009

The little buggers are insidious.  They’re small; their larvae are tiny; and their eggs are miniscule, though encased in a spider-web-like casing.  If you see just one moth, anticipate that you have an infestation.

Aurora and I have known that we had some pantry moths hiding in our cupboard for at least a few months now.  If I really thought about it, I’d probably realize that it’s been going on quite a bit longer than that, which would be an embarrassing thing to admit, so I’m not going to try to be any more specific.  Suffice to say, whenever we opened the doors to grab something, a couple or three of them would flutter out toward us.  We’d curse at them, swat at them, and occasionally kill them.  Not that killing a couple or three makes any sort of real difference.

‘Where are they hiding?’, we’d ask each other.  We’d root through the supplies and find a few things that harbored them: a container of dried fruit with a cracked lid; an open bag of beans; the pasta that we thought we were going to cook for dinner.  We’d get rid of those items and prematurely congratulate ourselves ‘Well, that should take care of things.’  And the next time we’d open the door, three or four would flutter out at us.  We’d curse at them, swat at them, and the cycle would continue.

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling productive and tackled a list of chores.  So did Aurora.  And when we were done with everything we set out to do, Aurora suggested that it was time to call it quits and do something fun.  “Nope,” I said, dragging a stool over to the infested cupboard.  “It’s time to clean everything out of here and get rid of those damned moths once and for all.”

This seems a good time to interject that our friend Mike is staying with us as a short-term house guest, and I’m glad to report that he is a good sport.  He rolled up his sleeves and pitched in, too.  If you’re having a problem with pantry moths, I highly recommend inviting a good friend to stay with you for a while, and then springing the task on them once they’re already comfortably settled into the spare bedroom with their return flight booked for some days hence.  This is a nitty-gritty, unpleasant, detailed task and having an extra set of hands and eyes can make a huge difference.

It quickly became apparent as I was pulling the bags, jars, and canisters from the shelf that the infestation went deeper than we had realized.  Handing the peanut butter and the tahini to Aurora: “gross–they’re in the groove below the lid to the jars!” and the jars went into the trash.

Handing a canister of beans to Mike, “They’re definitely in here!” He held up a jar that bore an uncanny resemblance to an ant farm.  And into the trash it went.

A brand new bag of sugar to Aurora.  “This looks oka….wait, no, they’re hiding in the folds at the top of the bag.”  It made a loud thunk as it also got deposited in the refuse bin.

An empty canister to Mike.  “This should be okay,” he predicted.  But pulling off the lid, he wrinkled his nose.  “Nope.  They’re living in the grooves where the lid seals on.”  The trash bag was filling up quickly.

“This feels so wasteful,” complained Aurora.  And she was right.  All sorts of food products, all sorts of recyclables, all headed straight to the landfill.  “Isn’t there something we could do with this stuff?” she asked.

“Like what?” I countered, “inflict this infestation on Goodwill shoppers and the food bank?”  To do so would be even more wasteful.  We took the first bag out to the trash can and started in on a second.

Once the cupboards had been emptied, I started scrubbing down the shelves.  Egg casings and carcasses hid in the smallest corners, the smallest cracks.  When I thought I was done cleaning, I looked again and found them in spots that didn’t exist.  It was tough to get my rag into those places to eliminate the traces, but I did the best I could.

While I was doing that, Aurora and Mike had brought all of our mason jars up from the basement and were transferring everything that had passed a sight inspection into them.  “If we missed anything,” Aurora proclaimed, “At least everything will be isolated and well-sealed.”

Then, out came the spray bottle of bleach solution and I sprayed down every shelf, every corner, every cranny and nook—twice—and let the shelves air dry.  Finally, we had a break to do something fun; but two games of Yahtzee later, we back in the kitchen preparing to put the stuff away.

And wouldn’t you know, on the third and fourth inspections, containers we had previously proclaimed to be moth free turned out to have subtle signs of infestations.  We had to start in on a third (or was it fourth?) bag of trash.  But by the time we were done, though our cupboards seemed bare, we were able to proclaim with a high degree of confidence that those buggers had been licked.

We think.  And hope.  We’ve got no interest in enduring a sequel.