Published on August 25th, 2015 | by Richard Black


Thoughts on Plague, How I Survived the Last Three and Await the Fourth

UF_Schwarm_Wanderheuschrecke_082515“Toenail”, “Droppings” some words are inherently unappetizing and have no business being used or found in a kitchen. “Larvae” and “Infestation” are two others to add to the list.

Let me tell you a story…

Around the middle of February I had the hubris of mentioning to my wife the following words: “I think that 2015 is going to be our year.” I had every reason to be optimistic. The rehab of our new home was in full swing, we’d sold our current house. Work seemed to be slowing down for my Laura and our daughter was cheerfully frustrating her preschool teachers’ attempts to educate her in the nuances of numbers and the ABC’s. Life, in short, was good.

And then it wasn’t. It would be inappropriate of me to compare the events of the past year to the trials of Job or the Ten Plagues of Pharaoh. Apparently however I’ve already done so and the moving hand on the word processor having writ moves on.

The rehab of our home, estimated to be complete by the end of February (after originally being estimated to be complete by the beginning of January) limped well into March, then April and has yet to come to fruition. Shortly after moving in our house was determined to be uninhabitable having been filled with lead dust (that’s Pb lead, the noun, not the verb), a few months later a bat buzzed through our bedroom prompting a rabies scare and now…well…now we have another issue.

This past Saturday had all of the markings of another innocuous and gloriously unremarkable day. Darcy woke a bit earlier than usual and the two of us spent a few hours on the couch downstairs while she watched a little television and I attempted to catch few winks. “Attempted” I feel compelled to mention is the key word. At the most I would fall asleep for fifteen or twenty minutes to be wakened by the shrill voice of my daughter screaming  “DADDY STOP SNORING” or “I WANT TO BUY THOSE WATER BALLOONS” or  “DADDY I NEED MY INSULIN.”

I may have made that last one up. My daughter isn’t diabetic but bear with me. I think I’m trying to make a point.

Trying to catch a few “Zs” while ones’ child is screaming for attention can prove to be a bit of a challenge. There are however ways to go about it that make the endeavor somewhat worthwhile. The key to getting a bit of rest when commercials rip a young girl, or boy, away from the latest episode of My Little Pony or Miles From Tomorrowland is to become desensitized to the child’s screams.

After waking with a heart pounding terror in response to my daughter’s screams, every fifteen minutes, to implore me to stop snoring I finally found my rhythm. Instead of coming to in a slightly befuddled and alarmed state I woke briefly to each screeching request to stop snoring or farting and, upon ascertaining that Darcy was in no mortal peril, fell immediately back in REM sleep.

This went on for the better part of two hours until…


Our newest house guests.

Laura, my wife, was in the kitchen (insert misogynist joke HERE. I’m kidding I’m kidding I’m not a misogynist. I don’t even like massages). She was talking on the phone and organizing our pantry when the incident occurred. After sorting through a pile of Campbell soup cans I’d bought on sale during the Iran Contra crisis Laura saw one smallish moth flutter around the middle shelf of the cabinet.

If it had been me I would have killed the damn thing, content in the thought that I had performed my manly duty, before going on about my merry way, a way I feel compelled to mention that would not involve reorganizing a pantry on a Saturday morning so I suppose the my hypothetical actions are rendered somewhat moot. Then again who knows. Metaphysics isn’t really my strong point.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, depending upon one’s take on the subject Laura was on the job. After dispatching the insect she went doggedly about examining jars of expired pickles and boxes of pasta that had last seen the light of day when Menudo was rising to the top of Casey Kasem’s Top Forty.

And then Laura saw it.

Rather she saw them. Inside a little glass container like a tiny science exhibit were five or six little moths tooling around in a half a pound of brown rice. For those interested I prefer brown rice to white. It has a lower glycemic index than white rice and I’m watching my weight. I’m also not a racist.

Upon her discovery Laura woke me from from my unfitful slumber and we both began to research our newest houseguests, the Indian Mealmoth also known as the Pantry Moth.

Actually I just told a bit of a lie. Laura began researching (a.k.a reading every horror story she could find online). I proceeded to throw away approximately 1,500 pounds of dried goods and other foodstuffs before hepa vacuuming every square inch of the pantry and then wiping it down with hydrogen peroxide wipes.

Pantry Moths, as it turns out, are remarkably fecund (yes it’s really a word, look it up) and an adult female can lay over 300 eggs in a day. They’re are also incredibly hardy. Adults, larvae and eggs can survive five minutes in the microwave and anything less than a week in temperatures above zero degrees Fahrenheit. Isn’t that something!


Cook a meal! Fry a bug! Microwaves!!!

To make matters even worse Pantry Moth larvae are about the width of a nickel and can live just about anywhere larger than the lip of a can of soup. They’re also white which is convenient for them in that our cabinets are also similarly colored. The upshot is that, barring the transportation of my home to Antarctica or building a really giant microwave around the homestead, these little bastards are pretty tenacious and I’d have better luck

Vigilance, an attribute I’ve never been accused of possessing, is apparently, key. Bulk good should be stored in airtight containers and ideally put in the freezer for a week. Cabinets must be checked multiple times each day for infestation and vacuumed regularly. The floor must be swept daily and the countertop wiped down after every meal to ensure that even the meanest bit of nutrition is unavailable.Despite all of these measures however there is no guarantee that the infestation has been ended and for the foreseeable future another wave is more a matter of “when” than “if”.

There are times when I wonder just what I’ve done to deserve such a fate. The last time I checked I wasn’t Pharaoh or even just a pharaoh. I haven’t persecuted any Jewish people much less an entire nation. The closest I’ve come to persecuting anyone of Jewish descent was asking for an extra pickle at Kopperman’s deli a few months ago.

Of course who’s to say what prompts these sorts of things? Metaphysics is fun that way.

Look at Job. He was a good guy. He didn’t have sex with his sister or wear clothes of different fibers. Job just happened to attract the wrong sort of attention at the wrong time. Whatever my transgressions a little lead, one bat and a few moths seem pretty tame in comparison.

You’ll have to excuse me now. Laura just found two more moths in the kitchen and I have to hose down the first floor of our house with hydrochloric acid. Later on I’ll be running out to Walgreens for a prophylactic bottle of lice shampoo. My daughter has just entered kindergarten and I’m looking forward to being deluged in lice at some point in the next few months.

Until next time I remain, affectionately yours, Richard Black.

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