Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The march of the millers

Colorado Springs loves to hate miller moths. Every few years, when the fluttering migration that passes through in late May is particularly hearty, the town unites in a collective gripe about how the little moths are gumming up their windows and attacking TV screens.
I've never joined the city-wide harrumph. I actually like the little guys. They don't bite. They don't sting. They don't eat clothing. If you're going to have a plague of something, I figure it might as well be millers.

Now, here's the cool part. After the swarm comes through in May, the moths disperse to the mountains, where they live their wild moth life, fluttering through the dark, getting attacked by owls and spiders and all that lurks in the night. And at the end of summer, the ones that survive -- and there aren't many -- pass back through the city on their way to lay eggs on the prairie.

Or so I had heard, but I'd never seen one. Then, yesterday, I was sitting on my front porch when a miller flew right into my head. It bumped around a bit, then landed on my window sill. Its wings were as tattered as an alley cat's ears. It looked like it could barely fly. But here it was, back from the mountains, and not far from its birthplace on the eastern plains.

Even if you don't like millers, you have to admire this moth's moxie.


UltraRob said...

I've lived here all my life. Although the millers don't bother me most springs, there are some years when they get pretty out of hand. I had never really noticed that they come back in the fall but the last couple weeks my kids have tried catching a couple in the house.

Jeff Thomas said...

1991 was a BAD year for millers. It disn't help that our house at the time was surrounded by the type of bushes millers love.

That was the year I invented the "cone of death." I rolled a piece of sturdy posterboard into a cone. The narrow end of the cone was sized to fit onto the end of the vacuum-cleaner hose. The wider end was about 8 inches across. Around the rim of the wide end I punched a few dozen holes with a hole punch.

The hunt began. When a miller would flit into view, I would calmly pick up the vacuum wand, sneak up on the bug, and quickly trap it against the wall by "cupping" it with the large end of the cone. The cone's mouth was wide enough that even if the bug saw it coming, it couldn't escape the outer limits of the Cone of Death.

Click. Whir. Floomp. Down the hatch went the miller. The holes in the side of the cone allowed air to flow into the cone, and prevented it from collapsing due to the vacuum.

We haven't had a year nearly as bad since. Perhaps word got around miller circles about the Cone of Death . . .