Monday, October 12, 2015

The Hated Clothes Moth

Life is dense and heavy with dichotomic conflict: enjoying laziness versus working for money to buy food to stave off hunger; desiring casual sex versus getting mired in other people's lives; wanting to be well informed versus struggling with depression. Even our best escapist literature cannot feature an effortless Utopia but centers on conflict, demonstrating that misery and suffering are what make life interesting to others.

My most recent conflict involves loving my beautiful Irish sweaters versus the habitat and diet of moths. I have one fisherman's sweater that I think was picked up as a souvenir for me, though the label swears it was made in Ireland. I have two other sweaters that I obtained myself, a smooth, subdued green one from County Cork and a gorgeous, gray, coarse cable-knit sweater handmade in Killarney. The green sweater has tiny little holes all over it and the gray one has a quarter-sized hole right over my belly. These are from moths (whether webbing moths, casemaking moths, I don't really care). The worsted wool of the green sweater made it easy to identify the off-color silken sacs in which the moth larvae were cocooning, easy to pick these off and crush them with savory vengeance.

Here's the son of a bitch.
Today I was sitting at my desk at work, wearing my fisherman's sweater, and I noticed a pale spot on my black jeans. It was less of a spot, after focusing on it, and more a cylinder, and it was writhing. Rather than freak out and shriek and swat it away, I used the crappy camera on my smartphone to obtain as clear an image as possible. Then I mashed it in a Kleenex and danced on it before throwing it in the trash.

I'll save a bee's life, I'll spare spiders and centipedes, but when I saw that moth larva writhing on my jeans, having fallen by sheer luck from my sweater, I swore I would study the best information available to kill and prevent moths.

I plundered several websites: eco-responsible consumer blogs, New York Times and Guardian articles, and university reports. Now I know much more about the environments these little bastards find favorable, as well as how to end them and repel the pests. And since I have this information, I thought I should share it with everyone.

Sunlight and low-humidity environments are hostile to moths. They prefer dark spaces, like the cracks and corners of undisturbed rooms and closets. Hang your garments out in the direct sunlight to begin to chase them from your clothing.

Regularly vacuum your infested rooms. Get behind furniture and vacuum in every crack, crevice and corner, especially in the closets. Vacuuming is an effective deterrent because the moths and eggs are sucked up and disposed of when you empty the vacuum.

Very high and low temperatures will kill moths at every stage. Wash your clothes in 120°F water (wool will not tolerate this and requires dry cleaning) for at least 30 minutes. You can also store your garment in a plastic bag, roll it up to squeeze out all the air, then store it in your freezer (below 18°F) for one to two weeks. This technique is regarded as "bulletproof" in efficacy.

Wear your clothes often, just like stirring your room up with activity. Shaking out your garments will easily dislodge most moths and cocoons; brush your clothes along their seams and folds. Don't keep wool clothes you don't wear a lot, or else you're staging a breeding ground for moths.

Store garments in an airtight container after you've cleaned them with intent to kill moths. If you feel the need to use mothballs (flakes, crystals, etc.), they are only effective in airtight containers. Anything less than that, and the fumes they emit during evaporation become too diffuse to be of any use (except to pose a health risk to you).

Cardboard sticky traps are excellent for monitoring the presence of moths, as well as for trapping the males to prevent them from breeding. Cedar and lavender are popular repellents but have never been proven to work to any useful degree; as well, they tend to degrade over time, making them even more useless. Just don't bother with them.

Further Reading

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