The Curmudgeon


Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Burbligonian Carpet Moth

The Burbligonian carpet moth (Solumpolvinatus burbligoniensis) is rapidly making a name for itself as the most inconvenient and destructive domestic pest since the invention of children. Its natural habitat for most of its life cycle is, as its name indicates, the ordinary household carpet, which it can infiltrate in a variety of ways, most often by simply flying in through the door or window and landing unnoticed on the rug, but occasionally by clinging to the underside of a resident's shoe or boot, which is also a favourite place for the moth to lay its eggs.

The female usually deposits the eggs at the point where the arch of the shoe meets with the heel, as this is the best position for her offspring to travel in safety to their destination, usually the doormat. When the wearer of the shoe goes into a house and wipes his or her feet, the eggs drop down between the fibres of the doormat, where the hatchlings, usually three hundred or so in number, can feed on the abundant small organisms which are wiped off people's shoes along with the dust and dirt from the street. Indeed, juvenile Burbligonian carpet moths can actually be quite beneficial to the carpet, since they remove from deep between the fibres a great deal of grime and many multi-legged undesirables which would escape the attention of the most assiduous vacuum cleaner. Certain businessmen have not been slow to cash in on this aspect of the moth's life cycle, usually without mentioning to the gullible customer the kind of havoc which can be wreaked by an adult insect.

The caterpillar takes several months to mature as far as the pupating stage, and during this time it eats continually, shedding its skin at frequent intervals. As it is rare for nature to waste anything, the discarded skins are generally eaten almost before they have become fully detached from the body which, by the time the caterpillar begins to approach pupation, has usually attained a length of four to five inches combined with a girth of quite disgusting magnitude. At this point in its life, when it is obviously far too big to conceal itself effectively in any but the deepest pile carpets, the caterpillar instinctively seeks out dark and dusty places such as exist behind wardrobes, beneath beds and inside unused cupboards; it is thought that this behaviour goes a long way towards explaining why most people dislike cleaning such places. Their very dislike, of course, causes more dust to pile up, and consequently perpetuates the cycle.

When the time for pupation arrives, the caterpillar simply sheds its skin once more, but without, as on previous occasions, having grown a new skin beneath the old. It then rolls about in the plentiful dust, which clings to its sticky flesh and turns it into an object outwardly bearing a passing resemblance to the severed and somewhat matured genitalia of a cat. Inside this the caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis, assured of complete safety from interference as very few householders, if they were to find the chrysalis, would go within yards of the thing thereafter, let alone attempt to touch it. The only possible hazard from the caterpillar's point of view is if the dust with which it has coated itself contains mites, or other tiny creatures left over from the caterpillar's dietary excesses. These little animals have been known to devour a caterpillar in its voluminous entirety as it lay inside the chrysalis; if, however, their numbers are insufficient for such a feat, the caterpillar will at least suffer a considerable and chronic itch for the duration of its interment.

The adult moth as it emerges from the pupa cannot be distinguished from other species, as its camouflage is among the best in the animal kingdom, and enables it to disguise itself as anything from a common lampshade-flutterer to a scrap of yellowed paper lying on the floor. It is here that its nuisance value mainly resides; for if swatted like a normal insect, or interfered with in any way, the Burbligonian carpet moth will give out a piercing shriek and start to bite large chunks out of the wall. Those whose homes have suffered infiltration by Burbligonian carpet moths can be distinguished by their tendency to behave in a similar fashion.


  • At 7:14 p.m. , Anonymous C Hughes said...

    is this a wind-up? My carpet moths are the size of a grain of rice but they still leave me screaming!


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