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Tips on surviving the Colorado ‘moth-pocalypse’

It’s now the end of May and the Colorado miller moth migration is in full swing. By now the dusty little critters have established their presence in the community and they are here to stay, for at least the next month. Here are a few tips to help you get through this massive moth migration, without loosing your mind.

Turn off your porch lights!

A porch light left to burn through the night, is an invitation to draw in all sorts of critters. Miller moths are just one of a host of insects that are keenly attracted to blue light. Those high-output LED daylight bulbs you’ve installed on your porch are miller moth magnets – turn them off or place them on a motion activated switch so that they turn off after a few minutes of activation. Alternatively, you can replace your ‘daylight’ and ‘bright white’ bulbs with amber colored bug lights. These bug lights cast a warm yellow glow around your property and are far less appealing to the moths.

Amber lighting is highly effective at deterring moths from accumulating around entrances to structures.

Seal your home!

Just as your porch lights draw in the moths, your indoor lighting is particularly appealing. The migrating moths will squeeze their way into any little cracks and creases they can. If your home isn’t well sealed, they will find a way in. Make sure your window screens are in good shape and that the weather stripping on your doors is intact. Consider turning off all unused lighting and run warmer temperature bulbs, in all of your fixtures.

Trap them!

Despite your best effort in applying the above tips, some moths will still enter your abode. While the moths themselves are harmless (neither poisonous nor destructive to clothing), they can be a great nuisance, especially when they do gain entrance to your home. Setup moth-specific light traps in areas where moths tend to congregate. Turn off competing forms of light in these areas and let the moth traps do their work. A light trap setup in an open area of your home, to catch passing moths, will go a long way towards keeping the pests off your TV and computer screens. Light traps can be as simple as a desk lamp placed over a shallow pan of soapy water, or can be more advanced like commercial moth collection traps, that entomologists use for study. A word of warning, don’t be taken in by those lighted mosquito traps and bug zappers, as the screening on these, are too fine to effectively deal with the larger bodied miller moth.

A soapy water moth trap can be a solution for moth control
Soapy water moth traps, while somewhat gruesome, work in a pinch. A light is placed over a shallow pan of soapy water. Collection can be enhanced by placing a UVA emitting bulb, over the pan and turning off all other competing light sources.

Swat them?

You may be tempted to get out the fly swatter and play whack-a-moth. Unfortunately, the miller moth is a dusty little creature and swatting them will absolutely leave nasty brown marks at each kill location. Instead of smashing them, reach for a vacuum and suck them up. Be sure to empty the vacuum bag soon after collection. Miller moths are moist and fatty and quickly go rancid and rot within your vacuum bag. Trust me on this, my wife was none to impressed with me, the last time she turned on her prized Kirby and the house was gassed with smell of rotting moth bodies. A small portable shop vac, that you can easily clean, is probably your best bet.

Essential Oils?

While I’m largely skeptical of these types of things, my wife (who I’ll be the first to admit is likely smarter than me) ordered up a bunch essential ‘moth repelling’ oils for diffusing. She ordered cedarwood, clove, eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint and has been diffusing these heavily in our upstairs living and sleeping areas (affiliate link). In the evenings now, our house is filled with a nice woodsy aroma. And what do you know, I think its working.

Clean Up and Don’t let dead moths lie!

Miller moths leave nasty rust colored spotting wherever they congregate. Entomologist tell us that this is a defense mechanism or a response to stress. They also tell us the moth secretions are bitter, I don’t really care to know how they came know this stuff (a job for the intern?). If moths congregate around your windows, expect to see rusty red splatters everywhere. You’ll want to clean the spotting up quickly, as the secretions can permanently stain some items. Finally, don’t leave dead moths lying about. If left to accumulate, the moth bodies will quickly draw in scavenging ants and then you’ll be fighting a battle on two fronts.

Miller Moths leave rust colored spots where they congregate.
Miller moth surface damage from spotting