Miller moths hanging around panhandle - kotanow.com- Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

Miller moths hanging around panhandle

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A bug expert says the relatively mild winter has let more army cutworms, commonly called miller moths, to survive and hang around Nebraska longer than in years past.
 
Entomologist Jeff Bradshaw with the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff says the winter in the panhandle can have a strong effect for moth survival.

He says during the fall season, moths generally lay eggs in bare soil preferring wheat or alfalfa fields. Larvae will develop in soil and crops. During the winter, large larvae will then graze at times in the soil.

"Large larvae like to stay warm under snow and when the snow melts, there might be huge barren areas of land we see because of so much damage," says Bradshaw.

He says relatively lower temperatures this spring encouraged them to remain, but they'll move west into the Rockies when the higher, summer temperatures arrive.

"Eventually it's going to make its way into the Rockies and start feeding on Alpine flowers and it will over summer there. So this moth will stay in this life stage, it won't reproduce here, it will go up into the mountains, feed on flowers in the summer and in the fall it will come back down around October," Bradshaw explains.

Bradshaw says the moths can be somewhat of a pest and offers ways to reduce their presence other than by killing them.

"Reduce lighting around the outside of your home by turning porch lights off if necessary," he says. Moths are attracted to white light more than yellow light.

Seal the cracks of doors or windows if possible and cut flowering shrubs and large trees around the house. Even jiggling your keys can temporarily cause moths to fly away. The noise from keys can be similar to that of bat sounds.

"We think with these types of moths that they can hear certain bat frequencies so they respond with evasive flight maneuvers," says Bradshaw.

He says animals like cats and bears may enjoy eating moths because they are high in fat content as well.

For a video of a 2011 moth outbreak in Scottsbluff click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LFRl5DBJpI

More studies on miller moths can also be found at http://cropwatch.unl.edu//

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