My newsfeed nets a lot of headlines, but I almost missed the one about the Saharan sandstorm last week, blowing its way across the southern United States. Our son lives in Austin and said you can’t miss it: eerie dusty brownish fog center-stage in an otherwise hot and humid Texas day. (The silver lining: the sunsets are spectacular.) I can’t spin a sandstorm positive. Instead, I picture every granule as a moth and every moth descending on my house like Japanese Zeroes, somehow finding entry and making my life a living hell.
They’re at it again, Mr. & Mrs. Miller and their countless compadres. The million (billion?) miller moth march made its way across the Midwest (today’s letter is “M”), destined for an oasis called Colorado and a house called mine. The little winged beasties arrived unannounced and in droves (awful word: drove). One night I noticed one or two of the millers performing their spastic dance around the outside lights and I thought, “Oh no… scouts“. The next night one of them sounded a tiny bugle at dusk and the swarming commenced. I’m convinced miller moths have air traffic controllers, letting them know “Roger that Moth 259 – you’re cleared for landing on any ceiling or wall in Dave’s house”.
From the minimal research I’ve conducted (like, I don’t want to know moths have 8,000 eyes or whatever), the high country of the Rocky Mountains is a miller moth’s summer resort. Picture Colorado as their Motel 6 for the night (just don’t “leave the light on”), feeding on backyard flowers and storing up oxygen for the next day’s flight to altitude. They seem to be headed towards Utah in particular. Maybe the flowers are better over there. Maybe moths are Mormon and the Utah state line feels like the pearly gates of heaven. Here’s what I say: if Utah really is “The Beehive State”, train those yellow-jacketed armies to take down the miller moths as soon as they arrive. The massacre would be an event worth pay-per-view prices.
I thought I’d developed a sound battle plan for Mr. & Mrs. Miller this year. Turn out ALL the lights and live in hermit darkness for several nights (like Halloween, when you don’t want any trick-or-treaters at your door). Then maybe they’d fly over to my neighbor’s place instead. Wrong. They see your glowing phones. They see the little LED’s you can’t cover up on your electronic devices. They just park in the dark in discreet places around the house, waiting for you to wake up the next morning so they can announce, “WE’RE HERE!!!”
There was no avoiding battle with this year’s crop of “Army cutworms” (an image even worse than “miller moth”). At first I was a mercenary, developing a cupping technique with my hands where I could catch-and-release (moths are the devil’s mess if you squash ’em). But I rapidly tired of saving their little one-inch lives one at a time. Try getting ready for bed at night brushing your teeth while a half-dozen bombers circle your head. Or reaching for the water glass only to find a miller has staged a glorious dramatic death at the bottom.
Armed with a fly swatter, I thought to myself time for a little badminton (actually, I just thought “kill”). But here’s the reality: moths have half a brain, wings, ears (or at least a sense of hearing), and endless energy. They know you’re coming almost before you do. They hover close to the ceiling, frustratingly out of reach just beckoning you to climb to unsafe heights.
Our bathtub’s too small to accommodate a ladder so I was forced to balance precariously on the porcelain edge while swinging the swatter skyward. The best analogy I can give you is this: picture King Kong on the top of the Empire State Building, gripping with his feet and flailing with his arms, only in men’s pajamas. Little buzzing machines dart about him. He knocks down one or two (with an instant and satisfying plummet back to earth), but most of the time he just swings at the air while trying not to die in a bathtub. It’s part-cardio, part-yoga (only you’re more stressed when you’re done).
Let’s visit the Army cutworm’s half-brain again. I believe moths are designed by Mom Nature to taunt their predators. One of mine made it into the refrigerator and probably enjoyed a helping of leftovers. Another survived a tumble of laundry dryer clothes and still came out intact (though it was hard to tell if he was dizzy or just flitting as normal). Yet another spent the night in the soaking water of our dirty dishes, popped up the next morning when I approached the sink, and said, “Have a nice day!” as he darted away. Trust me; these mini-monsters don’t die easy. Even a spirited swipe of the racquet (er, swatter) – picture enough force to explode a shuttlecock – doesn’t always kill a moth. Bless their pitter-patter hearts – they sometimes need three or four good whacks before raising the white flag.
Enough about Mr. & Mrs. Miller, right? To swat this topic once and for all, most of you know the movie monster Godzilla but what about his nemesis Mothra? Back in the 1960’s, (sick) Japanese filmmakers created a “good-girl” winged creature; an awkward-looking mega-insect who defies the laws of physics by flying. Mothra’s just what you picture in my worst nightmares: a moth the size of a jumbo jet. She was labeled “the protector of island culture, the Earth, and Japan” and revered among the Japanese film-going public (especially women). Mothra sold a lot of movie tickets.
So, the Japanese think a moth is damn near a heroine, eh? Well then, they should come to Colorado next summer for a visit. I’ll leave the light on for ’em.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.