DOVER, Mass. Todd Englund achieved success at an early age as a bond trader, but he hasn’t let the comforts of affluence dull his feeling for others at this special time of the year. “Todd has a heart as big as the glove compartment in a MINI-Cooper,” says his wife Chloe, referring to the sporty British two-door she drives around this suburb of Boston. “He’ll see a story on the news about a family who lost everything in a fire at Christmas, and the next day he’s down at Goodwill with a load of last year’s power ties to give away.”
But this year Englund finds the tables turned as he himself became the victim of tragic circumstances in the form of a lethal predator; the Tineola bisselliella or common clothes moth. “I started to go through my clothes to get ready for the holiday party season,” he says, visibly choking back tears. “And what I found when I looked was that my life’s work in assembling a really cool collection of sweaters had been completely wiped out.”
His wife moves to comfort him, placing a hand on his shoulder and trying to bring him back down to earth. “Sweetie, you’re exaggerating just a tad. They didn’t eat your cotton tennis sweater,” she says, but that exception merely proves the rule in her husband’s mind. “My pink and purple argyle–gone. My shawl collar cardigan–chomped like a half-price bucket of chicken wings,” he says before blowing his nose into a handkerchief.
This year’s damage by moths to clothing in the Northeastern United States alone is expected to top $6 billion, according to entomologist Michal Klesko of New England School of Design, with sweaters hardest hit. “We’re looking at a plague of Biblical proportions,” he notes as he checks historical data going back to the Little Ice Age, when sweaters were first invented in Greenland. “As a nation, we’d better hope for significant after-Christmas mark-downs, otherwise we’ll face a growing ‘sweater gap’ with coming superpowers such as China, which fashion mavens used to scoff at.”
For victims such as Englund, the only hope is to start over after throwing out all sweaters, since female moths lay eggs in clusters of up to 200 which quickly turn into wool-eating white caterpillars. “It makes me mad to think that my hard-earned dollars are going to a bunch of disgusting baby worms,” he says, growing agitated again. “I never would have considered it in the past, but if I have to beat this menace by making the ultimate sacrifice, I’m ready to do it.”
And what, this reporter asks, would that entail?
“Switching to polyester.”