My friend Sabrina is scared of butterflies and moths. I have to admit, I have not always thought this the most rational of phobias. Sabrina has held my hand as I've yelped my way through turbulent flights without batting an eyelid, but I've seen her shudder at a butterfly motif on a purse. I now think she was on to something.
My story began six weeks ago. I was looking for icing sugar at the back of (my incredibly well stocked) food cupboard. My hand came across something webby and sticky. I immediately thought...tarantula!.. and had fleeting visions of it scampering up my arm and under my jumper. The fact that tarantualas neither scamper nor build webs was irrelevant.
Unwilling to leave the tarantula colony in the food cupboard indefinitely, I had a cleanout. I found an ancient opened packet of peanuts that appeared to be covered in small cocoons. I had a little peep in and a few small moths fluttered out and into the kitchen. Relief washed over me. Moths are fine, I thought. I can totally do moths. Oh, the stupidity.
Obviously, I threw out the offending peanut package and transferred anything already opened into those airtight lockable plastic containers. I bleached the cupboard and off I went on my merry and vaguely smug way.
I saw a few moths the next day, maybe one or two. I dispatched them to the moth-afterlife. The following day, I found a few more buzzing around the kitchen and then the next day, even more. I decided I needed to call a man with some kind of moth death chemical...so Ayi and the insect man were left to sort out the problem while I went out for a walk with Snugglepunk. I really thought it was that easy…and that I would arrive back to a moth-free apartment. It never occurred to me that I can’t always just hire people to fix things for me. Apparently there are some things I need to sort out myself. Is that the moral here?…Although you have to wonder what Beyoncé does when she has pantry moths.
On reflection, leaving Ayi with the insect man was a bad idea. He just sprayed some 'medicine' in the cupboard and said that my food was too old and needed to be thrown out. When you have spent six hours surfing the internet in Chinese for a packet of self-raising flour, you are reluctant to then part with the self-raising flour unnecessarily and without a good fight.
But the moths kept coming. I took each container out of the cupboard and checked the seal and contents for moth eggs, or cocoons or anything. I took all the dishes and plates out and put them through the dishwasher. But every time I opened that cupboard I would find small moths hanging out on my Le Creuset ramekins as if they were beach loungers.
And then they started popping up in other parts of the kitchen, in other cupboards, cupboards without any food in them. I went to Google for answers. Mistake. I was inundated with desperate accounts from people who were losing the battle with pantry moths, who had to sell their houses or gut their kitchens. I started panicking.
As I panicked, the moths kept coming. Little A and I would chase them around the house swatting them with tea towels. Mr Oh knew there was a problem when, one evening, Little A (who has eyes like a hawk) shouted "Moff Mommy! Kill it!! Kill de moff! Look, Daddy, moff dead". I got a stern look and was forbidden from further involving the toddler in my pursuit of moth genocide.
The moffs were everywhere. I wouldn't see any all day and then could walk into the kitchen at about 5pm in the evening and count ten or so on the walls and cupboards. Sometimes Mr Oh would come home after the children were in bed, and find me perched on a stool in the kitchen with the tea towel in hand as my eyes flickered from wall to wall, cupboard to cupboard. Sometimes he would come home to find me taking apart the whole kitchen and stuffing everything that would fit into the dishwasher and spraying everything else with bleach. But the moths kept coming.
Then about two weeks ago, I gave in. Broken by the moths that would not die, I agreed to get rid of all my pantry items. I cried as I poured hundreds of euro worth of hard-to-find grains, flours, seeds and other dried goods into the bin. I felt a little bit better about it when I found a moth cocoon nesting in the organic baby pasta I had hand carried back from Ireland in my suitcase (luckily had not fed it to Snugglepunk yet…)
We put everything through the dishwasher again. Ayi was confident that the moth problem was over - she had been harrassing me for weeks to throw out the grains (she just doesn't appreciate how hard it is to find almond flour in China).
She was wrong though...the moths kept coming, although they weren't in the food cupboard anymore. They were somewhere else but I don’t know where…I had cleaned and washed everything. I even cleaned each slat in the window blinds, one by one. Every cupboard and surface was emptied, it’s contents washed and its surfaces bleached.
I killed every single moth I saw, on sight. Little A would shout "Chongzi!" whenever he saw one (Chinese for insect) and then I would have to usher him out of the kitchen while I "helped the moff to sleep".
Did you know that one female pantry moth can lay up to 400 eggs? No? I did. So when I saw two moths getting it on, on the ceiling above my fridge last week, I was overcome with fear and rage. I stood on a stool and swatted at them. They tumbled together behind the fridge. I imagined 400 moth cocoons colonising the dusty spaces behind my fridge. Mr Oh and I moved the fridge and used flashlights to search for the remains of what Mr Oh had at this stage dubbed the Romeo and Juliet moths. We hoovered and bleached. No sign of the love-moths. Eventually they were spotted (still engaged in procreation) on another part of the wall. They are no more. My home was saved from their particular plague of offspring.
Was that the end of the moths? No. The moths kept coming. But they came less and less frequently. I haven't seen any in two days now (will probably find six tonight just because I said that).
So, the moral of the story is keep all your dried goods in air-tight containers and don't make fun of your friends who have stupid phobias. If you ever see a small moth in your kitchen...kill it, throw out everything you own and bleach the bejaysus out of everything else. Or move house.