David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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Miller Moths

 

Much has been made this summer of the plethora of Miller moths, otherwise known as the flying form of the Army Cutworm. According to Deane Bowers, an entomologist at CU, the reason they’re so bothersome to us is because of their method of navigation, which apparently uses bright stars or the moon to guide them from their original habitat in eastern Colorado and Kansas to their destination in the front range of the Rockies, which is your house and mine. When we turn on the lights, the moths go berserk, as do our cats. And they make a mess on our windows and our ceilings, and bother us when we try to read at night, and crunch when we step on them. They really are simply not one of the best features of a summer in the mountains.

We’ve had many more than in the past few years, when we had just a handful about this time of year. This season, however, we had to resurrect a time honored custom in our family: the bowl of soapy water.

Back in the dark ages of the late 40s and 50s, when our little cabin had holes you could see through even on a cloudy day, we usually arrived about the 29th of June, which meant we were in time for my father’s birthday on the 1st of July, followed by plenty of fireworks on the 4th. And it also meant Miller time, when that phrase had nothing to do with beer.

 In the evening, when we lit our mantle lamps, the Millers would swarm and we would set out the speckled gray enameled dishpan (the one with the chip at the hole where it hung on the nail) filled with soapy water. In droves, the Millers would fly around the light, each eventually dropping into the pan with a little hiss as it hit the bubbles. It seemed strange to me that they flew with such fury and struggled so little once they hit the soap bubbles, almost as though it were a relief. According to Dr. Bowers, that may indeed be the case, since artificial light seems to confuse the nocturnal navigation system these moths have been using for many millennia.

There are other methods of dealing with Millers, old and new. My father used to catch them in his hand and throw them against any convenient wall, but he didn’t have to sweep them up. Fly swatters usually result in a pretty awful mess, and it takes a pretty good lick to kill, rather than simply stun, one. Using a bug bomb works, but it’s too slow. One article in the paper suggested putting out the lights in the house and using a flashlight to lead them outdoors, like the Pied Piper. I haven’t tried that method, but I doubt that it works very well.

The entomologists don’t have an explanation for the flight from the east to our mountains. It’s just something the moths do. And this year, because of a very wet and mild spring, there are many more than we’ve seen in recent years. Fortunately, although the Army cutworm lives for a year, in its flying form it lives just one or two weeks before it dies. As you read this, the Great Miller Invasion of 1990 is just a memory.

As for why they come here, I think it’s the same reason so many others from that part of the country come here -- the great views and the cool, clean air. And besides, if you had just two weeks to live, where would you want to be?

 

 

Columns

© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner

Allenspark Wind Columns:

Introduction

Why Allenspark?

Going Riding [August, 1985]

Electricity

Used Cars

Peace and Quiet [1986]

Liberals & Conservatives

Going to the Movies

The Screened Porch

The Beginning of The Season

The Weather

The Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The End of The Season

The Gift of Time

The Beavers

Addresses [1987]

Hiking

Watching the Trees Grow

Postal Rates

Changes in Estes Park

Square Dancing at the Pow Wow

Back to the Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The Solstices

Bird Feeders

Elevators

The Estes Park Hardware Store [1988]

Visitors

Limousine Service

A Memorial Service

A Hummingbird

Garbage

A Hiking Trip

The Estes Park Public Library

Wild Life

Riparian Rights [1989]

Weather

Fences

Commuting

Mountain Friendliness

A Motorcycle Trip

Satellite Television

“Weaving Mountain Memories”

Hotel Rates in the Old Days

The Price of Propane [1990]

The Front Range Almanac

June

Modes of Transportation

Miller Moths

My 50th Column

Modern Conveniences

Rock Climbing

On the Death of Otto Walter, Postmaster

Otto’s Memorial Service

A Big Owl Pot-Luck Dinner

A Whine About Telephone Service [1991]

After the Persian Gulf War

Some Changes in the WIND

The Trip to the Mountains

The Mountains in the Summer

Visitors

Of Dogs, Music, and Children

Muhlenburg County

To My Grandson

The Sale of Longs Peak Inn

World War II  [1992]

Murphy’s Law and the Computer

The South St. Vrain Canyon

“Whiteout”

The Hazards of Volunteering

Crime in Our Valley

Infestations

On the Death of Charles Eagle Plume

Can We All Get Along?

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lost Horizon [1993]

Walking

Rumors About a Visit by the Pope

Progress?

More About Fences

Woodpeckers

The Visit of Pope John Paul II

Forest Fires

The New Sewage System

The Snow Pool

The Good Old Days [1994]

The WIND’s 20th Anniversary

The Bunce School

The Shooting Gallery

The Estes Park Museum

Our Government

U.S. West Takes a Hit

The Year of the Hummingbirds

A New “Yield” Sign

Growth in Allenspark

Private Telephones?

The Salvation Army

Creation Science [1995]

Devolutionizing Big Government

Risks

Airports

Fort D.A. Russell

Domestic Terrorism

Old and New

Barney Graves

Life in the Wilderness

What’s In a Name?

Arthur C. Clarke

 

The Estes Park Trail-Gazette Columns:

July 1983

Carpentry

Estes Cone

Johnny Grant

Observations in Estes Park

The Bath House

Waving

The Sutherland’s Ice House

How Old is Charles Eagle Plume?

Dogs

Christmas Trees

Tree Murder

Mountain Driving

Garbage

Mail Boxes

More About Mail Boxes

“Are you related to ....?”

Spring

An Accident

The Wild Cat

A July Reunion

A Visit to Baldpate Inn

Opening Cabins

Summer

The Times, They Have Changed

Death and Transfiguration

The Population Explosion

The March of Time

Faith-Based Social Services

Looking for Pitch

Recent Writings I

Recent Writings II

Recent Writings III

Recent Writings IV

Recent Writings V

Recent Writings VI

 

 

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