Fighting Miller Moths: A Symbolic Occupation in the Time of Coronavirus

Just when I’ve gotten used to masking up when I go out – which is not often – and dousing myself with hand sanitizer in an attempt to keep COVID-19 at bay, Nature has thrown my area of the country a strange and wild curve ball: miller moths. Not just a few, fluttering through backyards like butterflies. This is a huge number I’m talking about. Enough to keep you housebound. Or at least shielding your head when you go outside. They’re not dangerous. But daunting. Blinding if you stumble into a cloud of them and have to shake them off. And thoroughly disgusting if you find one under your pillow, as I did last night.


They’re so profuse, in fact, that my husband can’t tend his garden. I suggested that he wear the orange emergency poncho that I keep in the car trunk. It has a protective hood, zips to the neck, and practically falls to the floor. The moths would then bounce off him as he waters his green beans and zucchini, instead flying into his hair and getting stuck in his clothes. But he’s determined to use a different method. He discovered that jingling car keys freaks the hell out of moths. All he has to do is give his keys a little shake and the buggers scatter in a panic.


Personally, I’ve taken to murding the pests with a fly swatter and vacuum cleaner extension. Just aim and let ‘er rip. The vacuum sucks them right off our sliding glass doors, where they slither in between the wooden door frames. I keep at it because I can’t handle anything flying around my head. My paranoia stems from a rather traumatic childhood experience. The father of a young friend thought it was funny to let their parakeet fly around the house while I was visiting. I was terrified the bird would careen right into me, but I couldn’t run away. Ever since, I have only been able to tolerate winged creatures in cages or from a safe distance.


Although they seem to be hanging out indefinitely, swarming like a bunch of freeloading distant relatives, these miller moths are on the road, making their annual pilgrimmage from the plains to the mountains. Beginning as army  cutworms in wheat and alfalfa fields, they’re now stopping off in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, and making us miserable. Before long, they’ll be occupying motel rooms and rental cabins and wandering the quaint gift shops of mountain towns like Vail and Taos. In the fall, a good portion of them – those that aren’t eaten by birds or bears, who like the moths’ high fat content – will make it back to the plains to lay their eggs and restart the whole cycle.


Since I’m not on the COVID-19 front lines, being a miller moth assassin makes me feel as though I’m fighting a public menace. Doing something more physical than just putting on a mask and rubbing in hand sanitizer – although that is important.  I’m murdering dozens of nasty bastards who flutter under livingroom lamp shades and keep people from reading in bed at night.  Until the moth infestation ends, maybe another two weeks, I will continue manning my weapons of mass destruction. Obliterating them feels really, really good. FFG


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