Monday, 17 September 2007

What to do when your teddy gets carpet beetle?

A small brown beetle on the bed doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me, it is. Last spring I spent hours finding and killing the dratted things in the kitchen, where they had bred everywhere: in bags of flour, in jars of pasta, and, most spectacularly, in a box of some kind of Scandinavian crispbread which had become a monstrous multi-storey apartment block for beetles. The little round holes looked unhappily familiar, and my local natural historian confirmed my suspicion that they were in fact furniture beetles (a.k.a. woodworm), who were apparently happy to stay out of the dining room table if they could drill through more amenable media such as boxes of dry foods. Fortunately the kitchen units were falling apart anyway, so we had it all ripped out and replaced (long story, tell you another time). The flour went into sturdy airtight containers. (I was slightly startled to find, some weeks later, that something had not only hatched but, in attempting to burrow out of the flour, had made visible mandible marks on the inside of the very tough plastic box.) I crossed my fingers and hoped that the beetles wouldn't just move on to eating the furniture.

So when a couple of small brown beetles showed up in the front bedroom, there was a scramble for the hoover and the spray-can of pyrethrum. Moved the bed, and crawled underneath it to look for holes. Nothing. Moved five months' worth of accumulated stuff (boxes of paper, discarded trousers, used emery boards, books half read in bed and forgotten about) and more than a millimeter of dust. Still no holes. Finally reached the basket containing "The Gang" - all the bears, rabbits, and other stuffed animals who survived the Big Cull when I moved out of home for the last time. Oh dear. Rabbit had holes, and one of the small bears was harbouring a live "woolly bear" larva. Almost certainly a carpet beetle rather than a woodworm, but unwelcome nevertheless.

After a complete inspection, most of the gang were bundled into the washing machine on the "Handwash: Wool" cycle, in the hope that they would survive the experience more or less intact. Rabbit, however, is made of felt, and has been leaking kapok for years. Reluctantly, I decided that this was one toy rabbit that would have to go the way of all real rabbits. I took a couple of photos of him, sittng on the lawn nibbling a freshly-pulled carrot, then tucked him under the forsythia to biodegrade*. He had been preceded only days earlier by Bengy the Bear, a hand-made glove-puppet bought at a jumble sale in the late 1960s and quarantined from the rest of the gang some years ago after he started to be moth-eaten. Bengy (nicknamed the blackcurrant bear, in unconvincing allusion to his charcoal grey colour) was laid under the blackcurrant bushes to return to nature. A decision is pending on what to do with a large knitted penguin, who is much too large simply to be deposited in the shrubbery.

A few small creatures were deemed of insufficient sentimental value to keep, so (at the inspired suggestion of my mother-in-law) they are at present in the freezer, to ensure that there are no lurking larvae before they go off to the charity shop. Someone (probably me) had left the freezer ajar, and I had to spend half an hour shovelling snow and chipping ice before I could shut it again, so that delayed the progress of the hoovering.

It isn't over yet. Next to The Gang's basket was the basket in which I keep my socks. I have not yet identified the larval skins that I found on the carpet underneath it, but the whole basket is now in the garage awaiting sock-by-sock inspection. Oh joy!

* Actually, I have no idea whether kapok is biodegradable.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Autumn I

A dappled grey overcast sky, hints of gold in the leaves, and a misty haze lying close over the city as you approach it from the hills to the west. Today was definitely the first day of autumn in these parts. Thoughts in the garden turn to tucking all the plants up in bed for the winter, even though the roses and the gladioli are still putting on a show. The summer's unusual weather has confused the blueberry though: the leaves have turned scarlet, but flowers have begun to appear. Plans for planting must include at least one tree, and some more gladioli, as the ones already in the ground have proved an unexpected success, and appear to be unpalatable to the slugs which feast so irresistibly on the delphiniums and the black hellebore.

The Squirmle (alias Tiny Bookworm) has had some more jabs today. He now weighs 13 lb 5 oz, holding his own between the 9th and 25th centiles, and is 65 cm long, which is above the 75th centile. I have visions of a basketball scholarship!

LibraryThing has updated the Zeitgeist, and others have been as busy as me, or busier: 2,607 books, but only up to No. 506.