Moth Season

During formal meditation yesterday a tiny spider climbed up the pillar candle then continuously ran around the top rim, orbiting the flame. I didn’t want the little creature to get caught in the liquid wax beyond the candle rim or get burnt in the flame. I interrupted my ceremony then extinguished the flame. I then carefully picked up the candle in order to release the spider to the outdoors.

As I blew the spider onto the shrubbery, I told the tiny critter, “Silly spider, candle flames are for moths.” I thought that the variation of the old “Trix” breakfast cereal slogan was pretty clever.

I suppose moths came to mind because summertime is moth season in Nebraska. I have to be mindful when opening screen doors because miller moths like to rest inside the gap between door and frame. When the door opens, the moth or moths are disturbed, that’s when they fly indoors to escape the perceived danger of the moving door.

There are few things as annoying as miller moths flapping around lighting fixtures. They’re more difficult to catch and release than they should be. That’s why I’m very careful when leaving and entering the house. In spite of the caution, one or two moths get inside each day anyway.

I keep an old plastic cup and a piece of thin cardboard ready for this problem. Whenever a moth or other creepy crawler is on a wall, I quickly cover it with the cup, then carefully slide the thin cardboard between the wall and the cup. Being mindful of retaining the seal between cup and cardboard, I then carry this outdoors for release. This technique requires some practice, but soon becomes reflexive and easy.

Apparently, moths cannot walk backwards. A few years ago, during a car trip, a very small moth flew into the left ear of my friend Mike. The moth lodged itself deeper into Mike’s ear but couldn’t back out to escape. Mike found a medical clinic at the next town on his route. A nurse was able to remove the moth with a tweezer. She examined and cleaned Mike’s ear but found no injuries.

Most moths I encounter are the drab, brownish-grey varieties. Miller moths appear in town around street lights in the millions and certain years there are the army-worm moths hated and feared by farmers because the caterpillars destroy the roots of crops. Rarely have I seen the colorful varieties of moths one sees in pictures taken by people specializing in macro-photography. What usually happens is that I see what looks like a pretty moth, turns out instead to be some type of butterfly.

So, how does one quickly distinguish the difference between a moth and a butterfly? Just look at the insect’s antennae. If they are feathery or saw-edged it’s a moth. If its slender and long with a bulb-like end, it’s a butterfly. When in doubt about the antennae, watch the wings of the insect at rest. Moths tend to keep their wings down, close to their abdomens while most butterflies tend to fold the wings vertically over their backs.

As I finish writing this short post, there is a miller moth repeatedly flying at and hitting the outside of the window in front of me. It must be drawn to the light coming from the desk lamp. Artificial light really messes with their navigation instincts. I wonder if the same is true for that tiny spider on the candle, too.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes commentator/humorist Paula Poundstone. “The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their faces whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Hometown, Meanderings, Science, Wildlife and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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