Roberts: Moths can drive you very batty

Roberts: Moths can drive you very batty

August 28th, 2009 in Life Entertainment

When you buy a bag of sunflower seeds, there a good chance there are moth eggs in it. Within 30 days they will hatch out and drive you batty.

There's a whole family of these winged things that can be called Indian Meal Moths, Mediterranean Flour Moths, Bird Seed Moths or just meal or flour moths. They don't really do a lot of damage to the premises but they can get in you cereal boxes, flour sacks and meal supplies. Believe me, they are extremely aggravating.

I discovered how aggravating they could be this year. In previous years I was able to keep them under control with a bug zapper shaped liked a tennis racquet and at times of maximum invasion, a couple of sticky glue traps. For some reason they took over my house this year, forcing me to make a pallet and sleep in the yard. They covered the ceiling and took over my bed, just crossing their legs and watching TV. Finally, I broke bad and declared war on them.

I went to Wild Birds Unlimited and got some moth traps (two for around $8). Trying out different traps, I ordered a variety from and discovered those from WBU were as good as any and reasonably priced. I also discovered the sticky fly strips will kill a surprising number.

Other birdwatchers had been telling me that the moths were worse this year. One longtime birdwatcher said he might quit feeding birds if he couldn't solve the problem. The little rascals have slammed many off to the wall this year. So I started collecting ideas on how to control them.

Some people say putting a big bag of sunflower seed in the freezer for 24 hours kills the eggs. You won't want to leave them there longer that 24 hours because it lowers the nutritional value of the seeds. Others say just buying seeds in smaller quantities and keeping a small supply in the refrigerator works well. That's what I am currently trying with safflower and the Finch Mix (sunflower chips and thistle). I use these two seeds in smaller quantities in three small feeders, so all I needed was two slim plastic cereal keepers.

Since safflower is enjoyed more by cardinals and liked as well as sunflower by most other birds, I may just eliminate sunflower seeds from my feeding program. Safflower costs a little more but it lasts longer.

Another thing I have ordered and will be trying is storing my seed in airtight containers called Vittles Vaults. The small Vittles Vault is 5.5 x 5.5 x 12.25 and the big Vittle Vault is 14 x 14 x 20. Even if the eggs hatch out users say they cannot live without oxygen.

In all the years I have been feeding birds I have kept my seeds in four metal garbage cans I bought at Ace Hardware. I sat them out in the driveway to help control the moths but the raccoons have been turning them over. The lids don't fit real tight and the moths manage to come and go from them with no problem.

Maybe these moth control measures will not set well with your budget but I remember one time when I was speaking to a group and estimated how much my bird watching hobby cost each year. One woman commented, "If you were married to a bass fisherman you would know what an expensive hobby is." Another lady chimed in, "Add golf to that list." Others talked about the expenses of the hobbies of their husbands until I felt pretty lucky to be a bird watcher.

When I got home, I sat right down with my catalogs and bought a whole bunch of goodies, including two more of the racquet-shaped bug zappers.

Talk about a feeling of power! I walked around the house with one in each hand yelling, 'Come on! Come on out and fight like a Mediterranean Flour Moth!"

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