My recent post about Josephine the compost rat having generated a goodly number of comments from you, dear readers, I’ve decided to write a double postscript to it.
First, Colleen Dick mentioned “pantry moths”, a good, descriptive, polite-company name for them. While I don’t know their proper name, I think Seabrooke would classify them as “micromoths” (she would know, being half the team preparing the upcoming Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America).
Pantry moths are itty-bitty, skinny brown things. It takes two of them to make a family, and one family to make an invasion. The white, pink-tinged caterpillars enjoy cornmeal or other grains, dried beans, or even dried fruits. They can chew through plastic bags. They spin their winsome little cocoons in any modest cranny. Both larvae and adult are slow, stupid, soft, and squishable. Ugh.
So the other day, E.g. and I cleaned the food cupboards, discarding wormy grains, reducing cocoon hideouts, and gathering like objects — teas, pastas, dried fruit, legumes — into sealable containers.
And guess which lucky rat is benefiting from the composted chickpeas, bulgur, and dates?
Second, Alyson asked whether corgis don’t have the ratter instinct. I don’t know about Pembroke Welsh Corgis (the “Queen’s Dog”), but yes, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi was originally bred as an all-purpose farmhand, whose duties included rat-catching.
It was Fergus and Cai, in fact, who originally alerted me to Josephine’s presence this Fall. Fergus, especially, kept hanging around the compost bin, circling three sides of it, or snuffling the narrow space between bin and lean-to.
One day, as I was shoveling out some finished compost through a bottom hatch, I heard a squeak, a rustle of dry leaves, and a soft clatter where Josephine had fled through a gap in the lean-to wall. Now I knew for sure: a) she’s moved in, and b) she’s safe from the Cardis.
A few weeks after the bustle-and-squeak incident, I noticed the furchildren hesitating near the raised veggie patch beds. As I walked towards them, Fergus picked up something in his mouth to show me. “No no, drop it!” I called, and he laid it down again: a dead rat.
I picked the thing up in a gloved palm to dispose of it, and was surprised to find it still gasping for breath. I have since read in Rattie’s blog that rats don’t tend to live long, so maybe the poor thing was dying when Cai and Fergus found it. At any rate, I carried it just beyond our back fence, and sprinkled a few dry leaves over it for a privacy screen.
What fascinates me, Al, is that for all Fergus’s interest in the compost bin, and Cai’s delight in shaking the shoot out of rubber throw-toys, neither had the instinct — the heart? — to dispatch that poor old rat.