The Moth Murderer, A Case Study

If you’ve ever heard someone described as a person who “wouldn’t hurt a fly”, what you didn’t know is that the phrase totally was made up to describe me. It physically pains me to see a dead animal or hurt one. I can’t look at roadkill. There are only humane pest traps in my home or I throw tantrums. Once, we found a caterpillar in our celery and I raised it to a moth before setting it free. I’m pretty sure I named him, too, but I can’t for the life of me remember what. When I was little, I used to try to keep bugs as pets inside jars. I’d dig for pill bugs (seriously, these are my favorite insects ever) and I’d tend to the mother pill bugs who were crawling with larvae. Yeah, I was that kid. The kid who was an insect midwife. (In case you were wondering, no, I wasn’t very popular.)

So really, I don’t kill bugs. In fact, it’s a credo – unless the bug is doing something offensive such as eating my food or clothes, or biting me, or destroying my house (I’m looking at you, carpenter ants and mosquitoes), I don’t touch them. Yes, flies are annoying, but as far as I’m concerned, they’ve clearly proven, through their supreme evasion techniques, to be worthy adversaries, and I simply usher them out the door. Spiders I welcome – they kill irritants I didn’t even know were in my house. Beetles, earwigs, and what have you are politely scooped in a cup and released into the world with a bon voyage.

For years, I have driven my family and friends crazy with my yelps of dismay and lectures on how this was their land first, and now we’re living here, and how we need to share and cohabitate, and how would you like to be flushed down the toilet? But I fear my kumbaya spirit has been slain, and the creature I’m taking my rage out on?

The moth.

Anyone who’s lived in the New England area knows that for the last few years is familiar with these little buggers – the little brown guys who coat your entire house in the fall and destroy oak trees. Mostly, though, these creatures have the good sense to remain outside, and when they come inside they’re lethargic. They’re boring. They find the nearest light source and they chill, and you feel kind of good that hey, they’re inside your house. Because you know what that means? It means they’re not outside destroying your foliage.

But now there’s a spring variant. It looks like the winter moth, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t, simply because it’s not winter. I’m sure some moth expert will swoop in to correct me on what, exactly, it is, but I don’t care. It’s brown, it’s the same size, and the only difference I can detect is that unlike its winter cousins, the early spring moth is fucking insane.

These moths are indiscriminate. They will divebomb anything and everything. No longer can you just sit far away from a lamp, oh no! Heat? Movement? Breathing? The moon is in the seventh house of Jupiter and the constellations are aligned exactly so over Myanmar and somewhere in Bolivia, a llama farts? The moth will divebomb. Sometimes, I think they divebomb just because they’re bored until I remember that they’re moths and to be bored would require having something beyond the most rudimentary nervous system that I’m not even sure includes  a brain so much as a teeny tiny neural cluster.

I don’t know what it is that caused me to snap – the ubiquity of these moths? Their kamikaze-like tendencies? Repressed anger that speaks towards some Freudian repression? Whatever it is, I’ve officially snapped. If these moths stay still, I get a box of tissues and go after them. About every day, a dozen or more fall prey to my squashing regime. It’s a massacre in my house. And that would all be fine and good except that after the moths are dead and I can eat my lunch in peace without a moth flying in my face going “WELL HEY THERE, BUDDY”, I feel horribly, horribly guilty.

I know the biological arguments that suggest that I’m being ridiculous. These are moths. First of all,  it’s not like they have feelings or can be in pain, they’re pests, they’ve invaded my house, their life span is probably so short that me squashing them isn’t really that significant, if they were in any other house , they’d be squashed too,  the reason there are so many is that their reproductive strategy is to mass reproduce with the assumption that they will also be killed en masse, but I just can’t get over it.  Maybe it’s the clicky squish noise when you get them. Maybe it’s the fact that after they die their little legs still flail. Maybe I’m just too soft-hearted. But that stack of tissues in my garbage bin makes me feel like a sociopath, like I should put a sign over my house that says “BEWARE – ENTERING MOTH AUSCHWITZ”. I mean, is it necessary to wait until they’re resing by the ceiling and then follow them around with a stool doing mass insect genocide? What happened to my credo of live and let live? And hey, you know what else irritates me? Mouth breathers. Maybe I should kill them, too. Is that an acceptable argument?

Look, I don’t know. I have no answer to this question. Tonight, I know that somehow about eight more moths are going to stupidly enter my house and I will stalk them and squash them ruthlessly. And then I’ll go through a period of mental anguish that will ironically not have anything to do with the fact that, for dinner, I ate part of a dead animal. Oh god, I eat dead animals.

I think tonight’s feeling like tofu.


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