Pantry Moth-strosity

It’s Tuesday, 8:08 AM. I open Gmail on my computer, and a new chat from Kevin pops up: “CARLY! I found a MOTH in my teabag!”

Instantly, my heart sinks.

Sometime around January 2013, when we lived in our little apartment in Tampa, we started noticing a moth here and a moth there. I thought, “How cute. Baby moths! The best kind of bugs to have! They are going to eat all the other bugs that we don’t want around!” We assumed that a few little friendly companions had moved in, and we felt led to do nothing about it.

And then the moths started having babies, and the babies had babies, and soon we were sharing our apartment with a civilization of moths.

We searched the Target “Home” aisle for a solution. I had heard of mothballs, but I wasn’t really sure what they were. Based on the information I read on the side of the mothball products, I realized this wasn’t the answer to our problem. I asked my mom, but she had never heard of a problem like ours.

Then I asked Kevin’s mom.

“Oh! You have pantry moths! They feed off your grains!”

Suddenly, the veil was lifted, and I realized that what I had thought were beautiful, winged cohabitants were actually disgusting, tiny pests. We didn’t have a few little friends; we had an infestation!

Yes, pantry moths—the most putrid thing that can happen to your food-storage area. They crawl through infinitesimal openings in your food bags and feed off your food. They can get in your house a number of ways, but many times they enter via something you purchased at the store, which is an even more despicable thought. Then, they lay eggs either in your food or in your food’s container. Our pantry moths seemed to especially favor the tiny space on the bottom of tin cans where the lid meets the side. Next—worst of all—comes the cocoon/worm phase. The blog No Ordinary Homestead describes the pantry-moth life cycle best:

“You may first notice the little brownish moths that flit around your kitchen. They will lay somewhere between 60 and 300 eggs which will hatch 2-14 days later. The mommy moth […] will usually lay these close to a food source. Then, once they hatch, they don’t have very far to travel before they start to feast. The larvae/worms look a bit like small caterpillars are a whitish-yellowish color with little black heads and about 2/3-inch (1 cm) long. They will burrow into anything and everything they can find, continuing to eat for 2 – 41 weeks, depending on the temperatures. […] And once they are finally full and have left behind their tell-tale webs, they will find [sic] crawl off somewhere looking for a cozy place to nest and spin a cocoon. This will often be crevices in your kitchen you don’t normally see or maybe even where the ceiling meets the wall. […] We promptly killed them and hoped not to find anymore. But there were more…there always are.”

But why me!? I had never heard of nor experienced this problem in any other place I had lived. And it’s not like I was suddenly very bad at closing my open food containers. I felt violated, like my apartment and the moths had teamed up to torment me in my own dwelling. I hypothesized that the moths were attracted to Tampa’s warmer climate; it seemed to be the only major difference between Tampa and the other Florida cities where I had lived.

The Pantry Pest Trap: Our best friend against our worst enemies.

After hearing the verdict from Kevin’s mom, we headed back to our apartment, fearing what we knew we had to do next. We searched every grain-type food we had—quinoa, cereal, rice, bread—and found moths, eggs, cocoons, and worms in all of it. We promptly threw away everything grain-related, wasting a lot of food and money in the process. Kevin’s mom—who, I learned, has a lot of experience with pantry moths—bought us several Pantry Pest Traps, which we installed immediately. The traps tricked several moths into killing themselves, but we still saw moths fluttering around. We brushed it off, thinking it would just take time for them to die off or find their next family to haunt.

A moth month later, we moved back to Gainesville. “Free at last!” I thought. No longer would pantry moths infest my house and dreams. I would finally feel comfortable in my living space.

After the move, I traveled back to Tampa to tackle the task of cleaning our old apartment—alone. I spent three evenings (eight hours total) cleaning that apartment (and got most of my deposit back!!), but every day I returned, I found more moths. I sprayed so much bug-killer into the pantry that I’m afraid for whomever puts their food into it next. And yet every day, I found another worm, cocoon, or moth flittering around inside it. I even found a few moths flapping around the bedroom closets. Eventually, they were all dead, their bodies dragged from my pantry by a mix of chemicals, paper towels, and pre-menstrual feminine rage. I won.

Or so I thought.

Dead moths = happy Carly.

We were excited for the fresh start in our new pantry in Gainesville. We set up a moth trap immediately, and we also invested in some fly tape to hang in the pantry doorway, just to catch any moth or fly that might outwit the moth trap. We sprayed every shelf of the pantry with white vinegar and sprinkled bay leaves everywhere. (Kevin had read that these were other ways to keep unwanted moths out of our pantry.) As if that weren’t enough, we invested in airtight storage containers from IKEA to house multi-use, boxed items like cereal, crackers, quinoa, and pancake mix.

As we put away food into our new pantry, something on the bottom of a can caught my eye—a moth nest! I couldn’t believe it. Those little buggers had caught a free ride on our non-grain food, determined to torment us for all eternity. Distressed, we began checking everything—every inch, inside and out, of every can, box, bag, packet, jar, etc. They were in the oatmeal packets, the popcorn packets, the tomato soup cans, the macaroni and cheese boxes, the folds of the cookie packaging, the inside of the cereal boxes—the list goes on. We threw away any opened, perishable food item that had a moth in/on it, and washed the outsides of unopened cans, jars, and bottles with vinegar. By the end of this second attack, we had thrown away almost all of our food.

After that night, I never saw a cocoon or a worm again. Our moth and fly traps caught the occasional moth that had slipped through the cracks of our hunt (which is a scary thought, but I let it go), and we could finally sleep (and eat!) peacefully, though it took a while to stop analyzing every corner of my food and containers each time I used them.

Moth trap in our new pantry.

When we moved into our current house, we followed the same new-pantry-prep procedure, minus the bay leaves (it’s just kind of messy).

This past Sunday, over our weekly pancake breakfast, Kevin opened a brand-new, sealed bottle of agave nectar. He flipped open the top and gasped: there, inside the cap, were two moth cocoons. Naturally, I freaked out, leaving my uneaten pancakes on the table (and at the mercy of Peanut and Dobby) to rush to the pantry and frantically search all of the syrup and ketchup caps.

Luckily, I found nothing; apparently we had purchased the agave nectar just before leaving Tampa, so it was completely plausible that these moths were leftovers from the original infestation.

And then Tuesday, 8:08 AM comes. Sitting at work, I feel myself begin to panic. Kevin had taken a teabag with him to work and discovered a dead cocoon, and there were nine hours between me and getting home to tear through our tea supply.

Later that evening, when we were both home (because I was not going to do it alone), we pulled down all of our tea, which we keep in a cabinet in the kitchen rather than the pantry. We had the same arrangement in our Tampa and Gainesville apartments too, which explains why a moth might have escaped the Great Pantry Purge of 2013: we never checked the tea supply! Luckily, we found no moths. Perhaps it was a fluke or Kevin’s failing eyes that caused the uproar. Regardless, we did toss the box of tea from which Kevin grabbed the questionable bag.

I feel fairly certain that we have escaped the infestation for now, though we do find the occasional dead moth in our current trap.

But we may never stop looking over our shoulders or straining to hear for a light fluttering of wings flapping in the pantry….

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Our First Date (and How I Did Not End Up Dead in the Trunk of His Car)

The first thing that impressed me about Kevin was that he didn’t “wait three days” to contact me after our initial meeting. The first thing that annoyed me about Kevin was that he asked me out via text.

Looking back, I really don’t mind; a phone call might have been extremely awkward. But at the time, I was like, Really???

As a tech savvy female in the digital age, I decided to do my due diligence before this first date (set for 3:30 PM at Volta, a coffee shop in downtown Gainesville). I needed to know what I was getting into. I didn’t know Kevin’s last name, so I used Facebook to find the Music Law Conference event page, on which I found the Music Law group, in which I found a bald guy named Kevin Hublou. He was the only Kevin, so it had to be him! Pleased with my detective work, I looked at the few things I could see on his Facebook page: his likes and profile pictures.

The first Facebook photo I ever saw of Kevin.

The first Facebook photo I ever saw of Kevin.

Speaking of profile pictures, of the 17 that existed at the time of my detective work, only 8 of them were actually Kevin. The others were a handful of bald doppelgangers (Jason Statham, Kevin Spacey, David Beckham, etc.) and little-known pop stars. I found all of this just a little bit creepy.

While there were a few things that I was happy to see on his profile (Harry Potter, Gladiator, Kill Bill), there were a lot of things I was not too excited about. To put it simply, Kevin had a lot of “epic” interests—those nerdy sci-fi/adventure-type shows and films that I have never really been a fan of (save for those few classics that everyone has seen, like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings). I was initially scared off by:

  • Books: Game of Thrones, Sword of Truth, Wheel of Time
  • Movies: Stardust, Serenity, Count of Monte Cristo (seriously, who puts that as one of their favorite movies?)
  • Games: League of Legends, DoTA, Magic: The Gathering
  • Music: Basshunter, Alizee, Enya, Lights, Ace of Base, Cascada

Clearly, Kevin was a huge nerd who loved trance music and books that followed the [noun] of [noun] naming convention. Fantastic. Suddenly, I was filled with dread; we had nothing in common and now I had to endure coffee with this strange creature. (Sidebar: I now love about a quarter of the things on that list.)

Next, I tried Google, where I found Kevin’s blog. (Later, he would tell me that he started the blog to increase his “web presence.”) He had a “Currently Reading” section on his sidebar, which showed that he was reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Ok, that’s something, I thought, since I too was re-reading the HP books (though I was on Goblet of Fire).

I moved on to his most recent blog post, which was an exposé on candles. Yes, candles. Apparently, Kevin had found an online deal where he could cheaply purchase four small Yankee candles. His blog post was about his experience with said candles and his opinions of each scent. It. Was. Hilarious. This guy definitely got points for personality, no matter how nerdy he may have seemed, and the candles thing showed he had a soft side. I tore through the rest of his blog (though there were only a few posts); even his “About Me” was ripe with humor and quirkiness. What I liked most, however, was that he wrote well and used punctuation appropriately.

There seemed to be a disconnect between Kevin’s blog and his Facebook profile. How could one person be so charming and witty and yet also extremely nerdy? I knew one thing: this was sure to be an interesting date.

I arrived at Volta slightly late, only because I didn’t want to be there first. Kevin was sitting inside, reading a book and waiting for me. He greeted me with a hug (He really likes me!) and led me toward the counter to order coffee. He went first...and paid for himself! (Oh, no, he doesn’t really like me.) I was really turned off by this. Now, I would not expect a boyfriend to pay for everything all of the time. But I thought it was at least understood that the guy paid for the first date. So maybe this wasn’t a date after all?

Kevin's profile pic, in place since February 2012!

Kevin’s profile pic, in place since February 2012!

Annoyed, I ordered my own coffee, and we sat outside. We talked until the coffee shop closed, discussing books, movies, college, jobs, etc. I knew that, at this point, the date was over, but I really didn’t want it to end. Kevin had a lot more to him than those nerdy Facebook interests, and I was dying to know more. We left and walked toward the parking lot.

“Well, here’s my ride,” he said nonchalantly, as he stopped in front of a motorcycle.

Yes, a motorcycle. As if this guy had to gain any more points, the bad-ass motorcycle just earned him over 9,000. (And motorcycles do not have trunks in which to stash the dead bodies of first dates you might have murdered.)

Standing around the motorcycle, continuing to talk, I got the sense that Kevin didn’t want the date to end either. One of us suggested dinner, and so we walked to Boca Fiesta. We had a great meal that he paid for. Now I was super confused. Had I just not earned his liking yet at the coffee shop? Did he want to test me before he paid for things for me? Had I now charmed him enough into buying me things? I felt like I was dating a girl; guys didn’t play games like this, right?

To this day, Kevin still does not know what made him pay for my dinner that night. I think he is afraid to admit that he was utterly smitten and just couldn’t help but suspend his miserly ways.

But even dinner wasn’t enough time for us. Kevin asked if I’d like to get a beer and play shuffleboard at the bar around the corner. I wanted to scream, “YES!!!!” but I very coolly replied, “Sure.” After a drink or two and several rounds of shuffleboard (at least one of which I won), it was 9:00 and finally time for this date to be over. (He said he had to study, but I think he just was going through video-game withdrawal). He walked me back to my car, gave me another hug, and said goodnight.

Now, at the beginning of the date, I had decided to leave my cell phone in my car so as not to be rude or interrupted. (Kevin had not had the same thought and even took a phone call outside during dinner!) Getting back into my car that evening, I was most alarmed to find 20+ missed calls, at least that same number of texts, several voicemails, and a Sprint pop-up alerting me that my mother had turned on the Sprint child tracker. Indeed, although I had told her of my plans, my mother had freaked out around 6:00 (which would have been a normal end time for a first date) when she could not reach me. Of course, I called her back instantly, assuring her that Kevin was not, in fact, the next Ted Bundy and that I was not tied and gagged in the back of a van on the way to my rape and death. (So I guess you could say that I literally survived our first date.)

For our second date, Kevin invited himself over, requesting that I cook dinner and giving me only about an hour to prepare. (Such a charmer!) Thankfully, he redeemed himself by showing up with a bottle of wine and enduring one of my favorite films, Amelie, and the rest is history.

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But even after all this, my mom was still not convinced that Kevin was not a murderer out for cold blood.

Fast forward three months. I’m about to move into my new apartment, and Kevin has generously agreed to help me paint my room. Knowing this would only take about an hour or two, I left my cell phone at my old place; this seemed perfectly acceptable since I was not expecting any calls. Kevin left his phone on silent and in my car. In under two hours, we were done (and Kevin’s voice had gone hoarse from bitching about painting for the entire duration). Back at my old apartment, I checked my phone nonchalantly, expecting a blank screen. What I found instead were 40+ missed calls (from my mother AND sister), 20-something text messages, and endless voicemails. She had also called Kevin’s phone, though (thankfully) slightly fewer times than she had called mine. Mother had struck again.

But she didn’t stop there.

No, Kevin also had missed called from his family. My mother (and perhaps this is where I got my own detective nature from) had stalked my Facebook to find Kevin’s name to figure out his last name. Then she Googled “Hublous in Tampa” and found his parents’ phone number. HIS PARENTS! She had called and spoken with Kevin’s little brother, who then called Kevin and asked, “Why are Carly’s parents calling us? Are you guys okay?” My mother had put everyone on red alert, even people she hadn’t met, because I had not answered the phone in an hour. And all this after Kevin and I had been dating (albeit long distance) for three months, both of us traveling to/from Tampa/Gainesville to see each other while he was gone for summer vacation!

When I was finally able to speak to my mom and convince her that I was, indeed, still alive and still not dating a serial killer, she gave me one of those, “I’m sorry, but…” apologies. She was not backing down from what was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life.

I will never know why Kevin didn’t just walk away from the crazy that day and never look back. Perhaps something about it enticed him and sucked him in. Perhaps something about my mother’s mania charmed him. Regardless, everyone loves everyone now and we all shit rainbows and lived happily ever after.

(And in all seriousness, I guess I should be very grateful to have a mother who is really more like a mother wolf that looks out and fights for her children, even to the death—though luckily it has never come to that…yet….)