Good bugs, bad bugs

Words I never imagined speaking to my husband: “Honey, don’t open the nematodes in the kitchen.”

The Priority Mail box of beneficial nematodes, ordered off the Internet, had been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks waiting for the right conditions. George was about to mix them in water preparatory to using a sprayer and watering can to spritz them around the yard. But I preferred he not do it where we prepare food.

Beneficial nematodes are a natural way to keep down fleas, grubs and other insects. It’s kind of like unleashing ladybugs in your garden—the creepy crawlies that are a plague to you are dinner to them. We had used nematodes once before, some years ago, and they worked well. Our cats barely had fleas that year. But this year, preparing for them proved to be a chore.

The instructions advised spraying around foundations and under porches. We have a large, elevated front porch that offers room underneath to store our lawn tractor and other outdoor items—lots and lots of them. It functions as a quasi garage, in a house that doesn’t have one.

To prepare for spraying, my husband had to clear it all out, pulling tools, an outdoor Santa and six reindeer, a bin full of plastic flamingos and several large, heavy, folding tables that we use for yard sales onto the lawn, along with many smaller items.

What a mess. I’m a Virgo and I like things to be tidy. But in the end, the cleanout turned out to be a good way to reorganize. We sorted out the trash and threw lots away. George then sprayed the nematodes and put things back under. The area is now neater and less cluttered.

If the nematodes (actually a microscopic worm, not a bug at all) were the bright stars of the critters we encountered this spring, moths were the dark side. We’ve had a problem with clothing moths for several months. We’re not sure where they came from—possibly an old rug in the basement—but unfortunately, they destroyed some of our woolen garments before we realized we had them. Thankfully, they spared our Icelandic wool sweaters.

We cleaned out closets (including cedar closets; who knew moths could withstand cedar?), rolled up wool rugs, sent clothing to the cleaners and, as a last resort, bought moth balls. I hate using moth balls because of their toxicity, but we kept them confined to one locked wardrobe into which we put as much wool clothing as would fit.

We thought we were at the end of it until suddenly, we again began seeing the occasional moth. At that point I called a pest control company, a step I had hesitated to take for fear of harsh pesticides. But it turns out there’s a natural way to deal with moths: pheromones.

We now have little moth houses set up near ceiling level throughout the house, emitting their siren scent to any lingering moths.

If only the nematodes ate moths, life would be pretty much perfect.

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