From Doug Yanega Re: clothes moth paranoia

Anne Kilmer viceroy at
Mon Jul 13 14:57:42 EDT 1998

Doug Yanega wrote:
> Could you please forward this to Leps-L for me? My server no longer
> recognizes leps-l, either. I can receive but not send messages. In fact,
> post this header, as well, so people on leps-l know that I can no longer
> respond publicly to the list.
> Pierre Plauzoles wrote:
> >In a previous article, lday at (Liz Day) says:
> >
> >>My experience has been that whenever you mention moths, people immediately
> >>want to know if their clothes will be eaten.  They think most moths eat
> >>clothes.
> >
> >You are right.  This is indeed a sad commentary on the state of affairs on
> >the scholastic side of this country's scientific establishment - and
> >perhaps Pierre Zagatti, Doug Yanega or someone else can correct me on this
> >(I would not at all be surprised to see them confirm it), but I think
> >most of the world is in the same boat or one awfully similar to it.
> Actually, here in Brazil, people do not seem to expect moths to eat
> clothes, but what they DO think is that all hairy caterpillars cannot be
> touched. Given that a few people die almost every year in Brazil from
> contact with Lonomia larvae, it's an understandable thing for them to be
> ultra-cautious about anything that even MIGHT be dangerous. Some students
> here have nearly had heart attacks when I dropped a live Arctiid larva into
> their hands. Naturally, I consider this a better myth to have perpetuated
> than the "All moths eat clothes" myth. The oddest thing about the latter is
> how *few* people ever have their clothes eaten any more, since the advent
> of artificial fibers. I think I have seen ONE genuine clothes moth in my
> life...yet the myth refuses to die.
> Peace,

As a hand spinner and weaver, I've seen plenty of clothes moths. Also 
carpet moths, and the grain moths that infest kitchen cabinets and 
parrot food. (Thank God for geckos and tree frogs; they keep my house 
livable.) I have also found that moth caterpillars do far more harm in 
the garden than most butterflies. This is no secret to the gardening 

The caterpillars know all about that myth that hairy caterpillars sting. 
They play it for all it's worth; plenty of them are just pretending.
	I tell children that if a caterpillar doesn't want you to touch 
it, it will so indicate with spikes etc. It seems the polite thing to 
do, to refrain from touching.
A colleague of mine however teaches people (especially children) that 
petting caterpillars is a pleasant pastime. As indeed it is. I am not so 
sure it's as agreeable for the caterpillars as it is for us ... and I 
suspect that the people as well as th caterpillars benefit from a 
hands-off policy.
I hope Doug solves his computer problem; we can't get along without him. 
  Anne Kilmer 
South Florida

More information about the Leps-l mailing list