Monday, May 23, 2011

They're Back!

WARNING: If you don't want to learn something new, go back or exit out of this blog! Right now! What you are about to read just might be educational!

The moths are back. The miller moth* is migrating. This particular miller is actually the cutworm moth which begins its life in wheat fields on the plains of Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas. Once the moth emerges, it migrates to the mountains in the west where it can feed on wildflowers. During the migration period, anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, these fuzzy little guys (1 - 1 1/2 inches) fly at night (they have special light-sensing receptor cells in their eyes) and hide from predators during the day. They find little cracks and crevices to hide in. One of their favorite spots at my house is in the crack at the top of the door to the tack room. So... were you to be here on a morning during miller moth migration season, you would observe that I do some sort of funky dance when I open the door. That's because in my still sleeping state I forget that the moths might be there, and when they rain down on me, I jump about, flapping my hands, saying, "Ew, yuck, acchhh, bleech!"

This is a miller moth....

This shows two miller moths hiding...
"You can't find me!"

The moths don't hurt anything, they are just big and fuzzy and startle an unsuspecting stupidly forgetful person. You will find them in just about any small crack. They will even hide in small areas in cars.


During migration season, one commonly observed phenomenon is swarms of swallows swooping and diving and flying around at intersections. They are feeding on miller moths. According to the Colorado State University Extension,  this likely occurs because, "many miller moths seek shelter in automobiles and emerge while the cars are idling at stop lights. Furthermore, many moths are released as drivers open vehicle windows at intersections to let the moths escape."

One....

Two....

Three.....

Four....
or is it more?
How many do you see?

The good news, for us, is that this migration only lasts a few weeks.... but, that isn't such good news for the swallows! They will have to find something else to eat once the moths have made their way to the mountains.

* Again, here is something educational! The Extension defines a "miller moth" as any moth that is seen in large numbers in or around a home. They believe the name came from people thinking the dust on the moth's wings looked like the flour dust a miller might find on his clothes upon returning from work.



7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the lesson in Moths!!!
    First i thought your were gonna talk about the big ones you see everywhere right about now, but this was great fun too!

    Thanks
    Leontien

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  2. Very interesting! Thanks for the educational blog lol. I bet your miller moth dance is a site to see!
    Connie

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  3. Cool! Moths and butterflies are welcome in my garden. They help pollinate. Thanks for sharing this info. I love how the Miller Moth got its name.

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  4. They like to hang out around my back door and along the rim of the grain locker. I have caught myself doing that same dance LOL!

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  5. I had one trapped between my window and screen, with a bluebird trying to figure out how to get it! Very entertaining.

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  6. Interesting lesson. Just this morning in the barn, I watched our two resident Swallows chase a Miller around as it flew above the horse's stalls. It was pouring rain outside, so I guess the Swallows decided to dine in this morning.

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  7. I've never seen those kinds of moths around here, but we do have swallows that live in my barn every Spring and Summer. I love them!

    The image of drivers opening their vehicle windows at intersections letting hordes of moths escape makes me giggle. :)

    ~Lisa

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