There are many types of moths which can become a nuisance around outside lights. Commonly known as Miller Moths, there are actually many different species which appear during the warm months of the year. The scope of this article is not intended to identify these species nor offer in depth biological information about any one type. Instead, we will concern ourselves with why these flying insects are a problem in and around the home and then offer ways to control local infestations.
MILLER MOTH BIOLOGY ^
Miller Moths started to become a problem for man as soon as we began taking artificial light outside. This was done for much the same reason it is done today; light enabled people to see outside when it was dark. Though street lights rarely create problems involving moths, entrance lamps, patio and doorway lighting along with any decorative lights placed just outside the home can become the focal point of a never ending supply of night time flyers. Such flyers include mosquitoes, gnats, katydids, wasps, beetles and mayflies. However, the most common nuisance night time flyer is undoubtedly the Moth.
Similar to butterflies, moths are actually the adult stage of an insect which hatched from an egg. The first stage is a worm or caterpillar which generally can be seen in spring. Overwintering pupae will hatch out as adults as spring arrives and they’ll start laying eggs throughout yards identified as good nest sites. Eggs will hatch young larvae which will feed on grass, plants and trees and then undergo metamorphosis mid to late summer. At this time you’ll see a surge in the local moth population around the yard and in some cases, their numbers can be over bearing. As the adults land on homes, their presense will leave mess. In fact this is why so many local moths around the world acquired the nickname “Miller Moth”; they have a powdery dust-like material on them which reminded people of the dust found on the clothing of the local Miller.
MIGRATING MILLER MOTHS ^
Unlike the local problems common throughout the eastern half of the United States, the western half of the country has migratory miller moths. These moths will fly hundreds of miles in the spring and summer moving from lowlands to mountainous peninsulas.
During these migrations, they will magically “show up” overnight in the yard and on the home. The exact reason for the migration is unclear but they definitely follow a very distinct path. And if your home is in their travel line, you’ll experience an invasion of sorts which will last 1-3 months.
Typically this happens in the spring to summer months and when they’re on the move, yards can go from zero to thousands of moths overnight. All the while they’ll be marking territories leaving their scented pheromones on good locations and travel paths to insure the success of future generations. This means they’ll return year and after year to the same yards and homes as they make their annual trek.
MILLER MOTH PROBLEMS ^
Since moths rely on their sense of smell for mating and reproduction, one moth active around a light or yard will generally lead to several. This is because the pheromone of any one female moth is very strong and can attract males for miles. If you get a female moth flying and banging up against the side of your home, her scent could persist for years and long after she is either gone or dead. This scent will many times attract males with one thing on their mind. So strong is this urge that they will literally “camp out” waiting for her to return. Expect to see moths hiding in cracks along house siding, under the light fixture and up under the soffits of the overhang. Spot lights which are placed high up under soffits offer all the protection any moth needs from the rain and wind and most find this area quite comfortable.
Unfortunately, such populations will often times lead to mating and egg laying right on the building. If there is a ready supply of vegetation close by, expect the moth larva to start feeding on it as soon as they hatch. This could turn out to be some prized flower or shrub so in general you don’t want moths laying eggs on and around the home.
HOW TO TREAT FOR MILLER MOTHS ^
Once you start getting moths spending their days roosting on the side of your home, expect to find some inside. Common areas where they will start to appear will be in garages, mud rooms, patios and crawl spaces. Though seemingly harmless, their roosting will almost always lead to mating and egg laying. Furthermore, their wing dust can create a mess. Many people have allergies to this dust and high levels in living areas should be avoided. And since their young will forage on such a wide range of common household fibers and fabrics, damage from hatching larva could occur most anywhere in the home. For these reasons, it is best to keep outside populations to a minimum. This can be accomplished with a wide range of products. The key is identifying which one is best suited for your application needs.
SPRAY FOR INSIDE THE HOME ^
For mild levels of activity, there are two types of aerosols which will provide good control.
The first option is to manually spray AQUACIDE AEROSOL. This pyrethrin based aerosol works quickly on all flying insects and it only takes a little bit to treat any room. It will provide a quick knockdown and is an excellent choice for space spraying enclosed patios, garages, living rooms and other areas of the home where moths have been seen. It is safe enough to be applied with people in the home and re-entry time is just a few minutes. Though it won’t provide any residual, it can be applied daily as needed. It can also be used outside for small areas.
To treat the average 15 foot by 15 foot room, spray Aquacide into the air for 5-8 seconds. Treatments will last a few hours and may be needed a few times a day.
For sheds, barns and homes with heavy activity, AEROSOL MACHINES may be the best option for long term “automated” control. These small machines can be hung on the wall or set on a shelf at least 6 feet high. They take 2 “D” cell batteries and will release a small amount of aerosol on a schedule you control. The aerosol is pyrethrin based and by constantly renewing the treatment, miller moths won’t be able to fly in the treated zone or else they’ll die.
Set up one machine for every 400 sq/ft of area and fill it with CLEAR ZONE REFILLS. The refills are safe for use in the the home where pets and people are active but will also work outside on decks and patios. Cans will last 30-40 days when set to go off every 15 minutes and by making the treatments automated, there is no chance of forgetting which can lead to ongoing problems.
BEST YARD SPRAY FOR MILLER MOTHS ^
If you have large populations of moths congregating in the yard outside the home, spray all plants and turf with MAXXTHOR. Its super repelling to moths and will kill them in a day or two. This way as new ones move onto the property, they’ll stay off treated shrubs and structures so you can get rid of the current active moths and keep new ones out.
Use 1 oz of Maxthor per gallon of water when using a PUMP SPRAYER but in general, you’ll get best results using a HOSE END SPRAYER to apply it. In our hose end sprayer, you’ll want to add 5 oz of Maxxthor to the sprayer and then fill it to the 5 gallon line. This will be enough to treat the average homes exterior. For the yard, the same amount will cover 5,000 sq/ft of turf. Spray once every two weeks if you’re in a migration zone/ once a month for regular maintenance.
If you want to use a hand sprayer, this one will work well and is very light.
But for most treatments, you’ll need something like our HOSE END SPRAYER.
LONG TERM MILLER MOTH SPRAY
If you have miller moths showing up now and then throughout the summer, treat with BITHOR. This product is very unique in that applications can last 3-6 months up to a year. Bithor will work best when applied to non-porous surfaces, not brick or cedar wood, but can be used on cement or any kind of house siding fine. You just won’t enjoy its main benefit so for such structures, the Maxxthor is better suited.
What makes Bithor so effective is that its very “stealthy” and won’t repel any moth like Maxxthor. Instead they will travel over it, pick up a lethal dose and die within a few days so they can’t get reestablished.
Mix 2 oz per gallon of water and spray the mixture over 500 sq/ft of siding where moths are congregating such as light fixtures, around windows and doors.
MILLER MOTH TRAPS ^
The Hand Held Zapper is a small device which is able to charge a large grid with electricity. Once charged, merely touching any moth will kill it on contact. This device is fun to use and takes the mess out of killing most any insect when you have a nuisance pest that won’t go away. Just push the small activation button located on its handle and then place it over a moth which has landed or hold it out where one is flying. Once the targeted insect touches the grid it will become paralyzed and die in a moment. Clean up is easy. Just dump the carcass in the garbage or out in the yard for recycling. Since the Hand Held Zapper is a great tool for Mosquitoes, Wasps, Bees, Roaches and Spiders, it has many uses in and around the home.
The second option is to install one of our 110 VOLT LIGHT TRAPS. Since Miller Moths are attracted to light, there is a unique trap available that’s perfect for use around the outside of your home. Its the only one strong enough to kill miller moths since standard “bug zappers” won’t do the job. Like traditional bug zappers, this trap uses light to attract flying pests such as miller moths. But what’s special about this trap is how it kills the insects which come too close. Basically it uses a heavy monofilament line, much like a weed whacker, which will shred insects as they fly toward the light. Just plug it in, hang it out and keep all other exterior lights off around your home (like deck, door way, flood, patio, etc.) to get the maximum effect. This trap uses very little electricity and includes a photo sensing cell so it remains off during the day and only goes on at night.
Local moths will forage to the lights and get chopped up as they fly close to the fixtures. You may want to set a box or garbage pail under the trap if you have a lot of moths getting killed. This will make cleanup easy. But the dead insects make great mulch so if you can, position the trap over a garden, fish pond or any place where plants can use the food.
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