Invasion of the Seasonal Miller Moths

Lubbocks Great Moth Invasion

It’s not quite Biblical, but this season’s epic, ongoing battle with the month feels like more than a dusty nuisance. Not only do moths outnumber butterflies 9 to 1, but this spring, it feels as if they’ve outnumbered us! You will be glad to know that the moths that are accumulating on your porch and are fatally attracted to your lamps and TV screens are just passing through.

These migratory squatters are most likely Millers, and Lubbock has been unusually inundated with them. We are seeing so many of them because these moths are emerging from overwintering and are traveling from the south. 

The adult moths are called millers because the scales on their wings come off very easily and reminded early settlers of the flour dust that covered the clothes of grist mill operators.

While these nocturnal nuisances are annoying, they are not at all dangerous to us. There is dust associated with them which is actually scales off their wings when they fly. They prefer to fly at night and seek shelter in the day. 

It’s all part of a circle of life: moths lay eggs, which turn into caterpillars, which pupate (think of a cocoon, or chrysalis), then emerge again as moths. This kind of moth outbreak happens commonly enough that Texans, and others around the country, have even given such moths a name.  

Millers is a generic name for any moth that becomes abundant in and around homes.  In some areas, millers show up in large numbers in the spring, and in others during the fall. Most people consider them a nuisance, and commonly worry that they are a precursor to some great plague.

The Millers are usually the army cutworm. The adults that fly in a few weeks will spend some time feeding on plant nectar, and then they will begin their long migration to the Rocky Mountains where they will spend the summer. 

Most of the miller moths we have been seeing this spring are adults of the army cutworm (Euxoa auxiliaris), a well known pest of wheat and grass.

Miller moths rest at night during their migration. This is the time that they typically enter homes. Being very small, they enter small cracks in walls, the doorjamb, small openings in windows, basically any tiny places. Although they are harmless, they can fly around the house, which is kind of freaky. Sometimes, an individual moth may lose its way and fly inward instead of going back out.

The best way to get rid of them is to open a window and shoo them out. If that doesn’t work, however, you can swat or vacuum them, or place a bulb over a bucket of soap water

Unfortunately, there is not much Bug Tech or any pest management company can do to eradicate them. Insecticides have little or no place in controlling millers because the moths are not very susceptible to insecticides due to the makeup of their waxy body makeup. Also, any moths killed will likely be quickly replaced by new ones migrating into the area nightly.

As irritating as these moths can be, it could be worse… it could be mosquitos. As moths migrate away, summertime will usher in mosquitoes; and these, Bug Tech can help you manage.

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Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension