As I’ve mentioned before, we have a major moth problem in our house. The winged bastards are everywhere, and have already made a feast of the bedroom carpet, some of our coats, and Ricky’s suit.
We’re waging war against them with a programme of vigorous hoovering, chemical assault, and constant vigilance combined with brutal assassination, leaving trailing brown streaks on the walls. So far, this seems to be keeping the moth population under control, and I’m trying not to freak out at the sight of every single speck on the walls. But I’ve recently been struck with a slight concern.
Being a good biologist, I’m familiar with the principles of evolution and natural selection. Species adapt to their environment according to selective pressures to ensure their survival. So what if my anti-moth measures are actually helping to breed a super-moth?
My hypothesis is thus: I splat the moths I can see on our white walls and paintwork. But presumably there are moths I can’t see, who have sensibly remained burrowed in the nasty grey-beige rental carpet or hidden behind the wardrobe/under the bed/inside Ricky’s other suit. Am I inadvertently removing only the stupid moths – who think that white emulsion makes a good camouflage – and letting the clever ones prosper? And is my spraying and hoovering only encouraging the pesticide resistant or particularly grippy ones?
It didn’t take that long for that icon of evolution the peppered moth, Biston betularia, to go from white to black under the environmental pressure of the industrial revolution. Next year, am I going to see rampant damage from a crack swarm of carefully disguised, chemically-impervious moths? How long does this evolution malarky take anyway?