Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter Moths....

Does your house have something like this going on? A holiday wreath and.....moths at the front door? You may have noticed that moths have been literally rising up from the ground around you when you go out at night and in some areas the moths have been so thick they look like dark clouds in car headlights along the road.
If you're thinking you didn't used to see moths on the Cape in November and December you are absolutely right. These little guys are natives of areas like Canada and have been moving south into our area over the last five or six years. This is their mating time and the swarms of moths you are seeing are males. The females do not fly and are mostly found crawling up tree trunks, front doors, etc. They look more like plain old bugs without wings and you probably wouldn't think they were a moth at all.
Male and female moths use pheromones to communicate with each other. These pheromones work like special scents to signal who is who and who is where. Female moths use pheromones like teenage girls and women use perfume to smell good and maybe attract a boyfriend. After the moths mate the female lays her eggs in the ground near or on the base of trees where they will stay all winter.

This all sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately the caterpillars (or larvae) of the winter moths hatch in the spring and climb up our trees and eat the leaf buds before the leaves can sprout, leaving many of our trees leafless all summer long. Eventually this will kill the tree so these moths are not a happy thing to find rising out of your lawn. The larvae go back into the ground to pupate (make a cocoon or crysalis) until late in the next year's fall.

I have thousands of these moths around my house right now but there's one thing that makes me feel better about it. So far I have seen only one or two females. Last year there were hundreds of females crawling everywhere! So maybe next year there will be fewer moths!

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