From the monthly archives: "December 2003"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Years ago we brought a bug into our house in some paper products. It had three stages – the egg, the moth, and what looks like the cocoon after the moth leaves it. (I’m kinda remembering that there was a worm stage, too?) It infested every area of our house and took drastic measures to get rid of.
The moths seemed to like dark places and this is the stage we are seeing now in our house. I purchased a different brand of toilet paper and found some strange hump-like places in one of the rolls and little pieces of the paper fell out. Our first infestation was in Oregon and we live in Montana now.
I was hoping to see a picture of the moth on your website but did not find it. Is what I am describing possibly called something different? If you can’t answer my questions, do you know of who I could go to for help?
Thank You and Blessed Holidays,

Hi Pat,
Webbing Clothes Moths (Family Tineidae) can be found wherever organic textiles are stored. They are the moths famous for destroying fine wool sweaters and suits. They will also eat cotton, but prefer wool. It is the caterpillar stage that does the damage.
There is a another moth called the Case-Bearing Clothes Moth, Tinea pellionella, that can be identified by the case it carries. The structure is an elongate flattened sac that is made of silk and is slightly splayed at the open end. The larvae carry this case about with them and eventually pupate within. They are often found is wool and silk, but they could possibly feed off of cotton products.
The Indian Meal Moth, on the other hand, is just one of several Pyralid or Pantry Moths that infest stored food products. The adults resemble small generic moths that can be found on the inside of cupboard doors as well as fluttering aroung lights in the house at night. The larval form is a small white caterpillar that infests the food products. One species, the Meal Moth, Pyralis farinalis, has larvae that build silken tubes or cases that are mixed with food debris. I once had a disgusting box of cornmeal that was totally infested. The Indian Meal Moth lives in the food source within masses of webbing.
Sorry we have no photos since our readers to send them in. Usually a description will suffice in the case of these destructive house pests.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I have a juvenile Southern Black Widow in a jar at my house. She’s very small and has striped legs, a red stripe down the topside of her abdomen and of course, the tell tale hourglass on the underside of her abdomen. I’ve had her now for approximately 3 weeks. I would very much like to keep her but since I have a 10 year old daughter I cannot just let her roam about freely. I don’t want to put her outside because I live in Oklahoma and the temperature is decreasing daily. The jar that I have her in is a gallon glass jar with a metal lid. We’ve poked holes in the lid so she can breathe and put dirt, rocks, leaves and plenty of sticks in the jar. She seems to be content because she has spun a very nice web in there. We’ve fed her a variety of things including flies, little bees and other spiders. She liked all of those just fine but now that the weather is turning much colder it is getting harder to find suitable bugs for her. So, I went to the pet store and bought her some crickets. There is only one problem, the crickets are much bigger than she is and she won’t eat them! Last night she was hanging upside down in her web as she always does and one of the crickets walked right up to her (via a stick) and she retreated. The cricket then stomped all over her web and went back to the bottom of the jar. I have a few questions concerning this amazing spider of mine.
First of all, will she eat the cricket if she’s hungry or is he just too big for her?
Will the cricket eat her?
How often do Black Widows need to eat?
Does she need a fresh supply of water or does she get this from her prey?
If she does need a fresh supply of water, how much?
When will she molt?
When she does, how long afterwards should I wait to feed her again?
I very much adore this spider and want her to live through the winter. Please let me know what I can do to keep this truly wonderful creature alive and well. Thank you!
Misty McClain

Dear Misty,
Thank you for your sensitive letter. I will try to answer all your questions. First, while it is possible for your juvenile spider to feed off of the crickets, the size differential might be a problem. Find out from your pet store what their source of crickets is. You might be able to contact the breeder and get juvenile crickets. Another solution which might be fun for your daughter as well is to raise Drosophila, fruit flies, which can be obtained from a biological supply house for schools, or you can just try to attract the flies to an overripe banana in your kitchen. The fruit flies are very easy to raise as any home maker who has forgotten to remove fruit from the kitchen or fogotten to take the garbage to the compost pile. I always have some fruit flies swarming in my kitchen. Crickets are omniverous, and they might try to eat your spider. Not to be evasive, but your spider will eat when hungry. In the wild, they do not eat daily, but rather when they catch prey. Sometimes this happens several times a day, and at other times it might be weeks between meals. The spiders are resilient. Black Widows are fond of damp dark places but they will not drink water. They get their water from the life giving juices sucked out of their prey. She will molt when she has outgrown her current skin. This happens several times over the course of her life. At her final moult she will achieve the glossy black color that typifies her species. it is also possible that you have a male spider which is colored similarly to the juvenile. I hope this answers your questions, and good luck.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination