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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Conclusion of a Science Experiment

  You know the joke about the "science experiments" in the back of the refrigerator. Well, I've had something similar going for several years. Yes, years.

The large glass jar on the left has a hard mess of brown stuff in it. What is it? you ask. Er, um... it's icky. We have had trouble off and on for decades with grain moths. I try to keep everything they can get into in glass jars that have tight screw lids or other air-tight containers. I used to keep whole wheat flour in that jar.

A few years ago, I realized that moths had gotten in anyway. There were four possibilities. I only mention these to sustain the illusion that this was a science experiment, but it is an interesting practical kitchen question because they have also gotten into other screw-top jars. 1. Eggs were somehow floating in the air and settled in the jar some time when it was open. 2. Moths laid eggs along the edge of the lid, and the threads had just enough space between the jar and the lid that the first instar larvae could crawl up that inclined plane. 3. A female moth carrying eggs flew in the jar when I had it open. (But I discount this one because I have become very aware of leaving things open since I've waged full-out war on these moths for quite a while.) 4. There is another possibility specifically for this jar. Along the bottom edge is a tight crack. I've never put anything in that jar that is very heavy because I assume that some day the bottom will just fall out. Moths might have laid eggs near that crack and the instars gotten in that way.

I realize that 2 and 4 seem unlikely, but I think 1 and 3 are practically impossible, so there you have it.

So, the moths hatched, the larvae ate the flour, became moths, laid eggs, etc, for many generations. There were so many moths I decided I was not going to open that jar, inside or outside the house, until the closed system had expended itself. After the flour was all gone, I believe they started eating their own frass, and then each other. Finally, after several years, I could detect no movement inside the jar any more. But by then I was in the prep stages for my big hike.
kitchen jars

All that was left when I opened it today was a hard brown lump that definitely smelled frassy. I had a hard time cutting it into halves so I could actually get it out of the jar. Then I gave it a good washing with hot clorox water. I was especially pleased that the bottom did not fall out when I did all this. I had assumed the jar was not going to survive the cleaning.

Let me just say that I like this jar. It has no sentimental value (I don't remember where I got it), but it has embossed letters on the bottom "McLaughlin's Manor House Coffee."
glass coffee jar

As part of this endeavor, I cleaned off the entire microwave table. Remember I mentioned catching mice last week? Well, you know what nice presents mice can leave, and between them and old dust, this was a worthy project. I think I'll put tea bags in the jar now. The lid isn't quite dry, so it's not on in the picture. But the moths don't seem to eat tea bags. (They eat a lot of unlikely things, but I haven't had them get in the tea yet.)
kitchen jars

While I was messing around in the kitchen, I also re-hung my kitchen lizard who had leapt off the wall, and then I added some hooks to hold up the spring curtain rod that had lost its springiness.
lizard decoration

This probably looks like I did a lot today, but the truth is that I didn't get to sleep until late, and then I woke up late with a neck so stiff that it was giving me an earache. Mostly I sat in my chair with a heating pad on my neck. But midafternoon, I started getting antsy and decided to clean up this space. It feels satisfactory even if it didn't take too long.

See Clear and Clean


The Oceanside Animals said...

Charlee: "Ooh, this reminds me of the environmental experiment our Dada accidentally performed here one time!"
Lulu: "What was that?"
Chaplin: "Well he discovered we had black widows in the pantry, so he cleared them all out with the vacuum cleaner. Not long after that we had a population explosion of pantry moths. They were flying around all over the place."
Charlee: "IT WAS AWESOME."
Chaplin: "Yes it was! Well eventually they got the pantry moth population back under control using traps and stuff."
Charlee: "IT WAS SAD."
Chaplin: "Yes it was. And now they have some kind of detente with the spiders."
Java Bean: "Meaning what?"
Charlee: "Dada pretends there are no black widows, and the black widows eat the pantry moths, and everyone is happy."
Chaplin: "Except us, because we don't have many moths to chase."

Ann said...

That's quite a mystery how they get in those jars with the lids on them.

Sharkbytes said...

You furkids need to tell Dada that I'll take pantry moths over poisonous spiders any day. Yikes!

Ann- I'm sure they are crawling up the screw threads when they are tiny larvae.