The miller moths are back

. . . and that means it’s time to bring out the heavy artillery: The Cone of Death. It’s the best method I can devise to keep the damnable bugs to a minimum, and to prevent the cats from hurling their 15-pound selves into lamps and other fragile objects around the house in pursuit of the moths.

Colorado is blessedly bereft of some of the more insidious insects such as termites and cockroaches. Spiders, ants and the miller moth seem to be the worst we have to endure.

The millers have arrived earlier than usual. According to the Colorado State University Extension, the annual moth migration, from the plains westward to the mountains, typically doesn’t begin to wash over the Front Range until mid May.

They arrived at our front door — literally, swarming around the light — last night, April 21. That’s very early. The Extension says that even in 1991, a plague of a year that long-timers still recall with a shudder, the invasion didn’t begin until early May. The annual outbreak seems to swell during warm, dry seasons, and the winter and spring of 2012 have been warmer and drier than usual.

In other words: Buckle up. And make yourself a Cone of Death. You need two main ingredients.

1. A vacuum that has a hose and can be detached from the floor wand. Something like this:

2. Some stiff poster paper. You’ll need a piece about 2 feet by 2 feet, or thereabouts. Needs to be larger than a standard sheet of writing paper. Flexible enough to bend smoothly into a cone, and stout enough to keep its shape.

Detach the vacuum’s floor attachment from the vacuum hose, so that you’re left only with the vacuum canister, the flexible hose, and the handle — the kind of setup you’d use to vacuum under the couch cushions.

Make a cone out of the paper. Make the small end of the cone just large enough to slide onto the vacuum hose. A nice, snug fit. The wide end should be around 8 inches in diameter. Use tape — duct tape, masking tape, even Scotch tape or staples if that’s all you have — to hold the rolled paper in a cone shape. The overall length of the cone, from the wide end to the narrow, will be around 12 inches or so. There’s no need for exacting precision here; something about the size of one of those smallish soccer-field cones used to mark the corners will do nicely.

Important: Near the cone’s widest end, punch a series of holes in the paper around the circumference of the cone — about one hole every inch. A standard one-hole paper punch will to the trick.

Slide the narrow end of the cone on the end of the vacuum hose. It’s time to go hunting.

When you lock a moth into your sights, approach it with the cone in hand. Keep the vacuum off for now. Get close, then quickly corral the moth with the wide end of the cone, trapping it against the wall or window. The cone’s wide mouth makes it less likely the flitty bug will elude you. The moth will begin to fly around the inside of the cone, bumping against its walls. Keep the cone pinned against the wall.

Now, turn on the vacuum. The holes you had punched into the paper are too small for the moth to crawl through, but allow air to rush into the cone and flush the bug into the vacuum canister. If you had not punched holes in the paper, the vacuum inside the cone would cause the air pressure on the outside to collapse the paper.

After a while, you’ll get good enough that you can pick millers out of the air in mid-flight.

As moth-disposal methods go, this one is quick, clean and effective. On the downside, you’ll need to keep your vacuum out and at the ready for a few weeks, especially at night. But it’s better than letting your cats knock over every lamp and flower vase in the house.


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