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Terminator of termites

by Nilgin Yusuf about a year ago in clothing
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It’s time to clear out the moths.

This Spring, it’s war. I’ve tolerated it long enough. What’s needed is a scorched earth policy. I imagine they look like piranhas or Critters, with multiple rows of sharp, tiny teeth that chunder through cashmere the way humans eat corn-on-the-cob. So many sweaters have been lost, but this Spring, I’m taking them out, one by one, pupa by pupa. Every silky tube of larvae will be hunted out and destroyed. I will be like Arnie, Terminator of termites and I will be moth free.

Last weekend, I pulled out a dark gray sweater from my wardrobe to discover in the liminal no man’s land between laundering and hanging, it had been savaged. Only two years old from Uniglo, its charcoal life had been cut short, devoured by these domestic Behemoths. I wish no harm to any living creature but here, I draw the line. I’m going to sweep them out, shake them out, scent them out and smoke them out. I will bombard them with pheromones and suffocate them with sandlewood. I’ll do whatever it takes to be rid of them and protect my precious cachet.

Each one is between 2mm and 5mm long, but if you get up close and personal with the tineola bissellialla, you will observe a beguiling beauty with lustrous buff coloured wings. You can imagine the moth elegantly arranged, posing like Veronica Lake or Lauren Bacall for a 1930s studio shot in a scintillating gold lamé cape with slightly pointy shoulders and a sultry glance. Like the archetypal femme fatale, the common webbing moth may look entrancing but is lethal. Like those film noir heroines, the moth is drawn to dark corners where they plot, scheme and prepare to wreak havoc in the most orderly of wardrobes.

Do I sound mad? I am mad. Crazy mad.

We’re talking a lifetime’s creation of a concept closet here. These are my garments gathered from around the world and across decades. I don’t blindly follow fashion. I’m not topping up this year’s landfill with last season’s cast-offs. I’m more into timeless classics that see me through, year on year, occasionally updated with a jaunty new accessory here and there. I like the clothes I’ve built up over the years. They flatter me and even prevent me piling the weight on. Well, it’s more cost effective to keep wearing the clothes you have, rather than buying more.

Can you see how much I’ve thought all this through? Yet after all these decades of constructing my Forever Wardrobe, all this planning and consideration, is being routinely undermined by the fierce flutter of gossamer wings.

When the temperature warms up, it’s breeding time. It means they’re doing their thing in my closet. The average life cycle lasts for 65 - 90 days with adult female moths living for about 30 days and laying 300 minuscule eggs, each the size of a pinhead. The larvae that hatch from these eggs then embark on a feeding frenzy, eating my clothes. They’re not so interested in Nylon or synthetics but prefer smacking their creepy crawly lips around silk, cotton and cashmere, only the best. Then the larvae pupate, swathing themselves inside a sleek shroud, sealed with excrement and the fibres of my jumpers, until they emerge as shimmering killers, and the whole thing starts again.

I’ve tried to live harmoniously with the moths. I’ve cleared out my clothes periodically, packing away one season’s garments and taking out the next. I’ve gone in soft touch, hung lavender pomanders over coat hangers but the moths are getting the better of me. This sartorial sabotage has to stop, so this Spring, I’ll be ramping up my defences. Big time.


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Nilgin Yusuf

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