Invasion of the Six-Plume Moths

In what I can only describe as perfect timing, I witnessed the initial attack of what I now call the ‘Invasion of the Six-Plume Moths.’

We were getting a new furnace installed and I happened to be in the furnace room as the installer was removing the filter from the old furnace, an action that released hundreds, perhaps thousands of tiny moths. The insects had decided to spend the winter in the relative warmth of the air intake duct (mid efficiency system). They had not been able to infiltrate the house (because of the filter) but once the filter was removed they were free!

The furnace man was fiercely batting them away from his face, but that only helped to disperse them more quickly. The moths are now in every room in the house and though they are very small (only 1.2 cm or .47 in from wing tip to wing tip), they are very persistent and annoying little critters.

Every day we do a ‘Moth Sweep’ with the vacuum and suck them off the surfaces they have landed on. I’d like to say we are winning the battle, but as I sit here typing I’ve scooted three moths off my monitor screen. On several occasions I’ve scooped them out of a beverage. There are usually a few of them on my pillow when I go to bed. They keep crossing the line from being a tolerable house guest to being unwanted pests…

Our moths are likely the Alucita montana or Six-plume Moth. The moths in this family are quite unique in that their fore- and hind-wings each have about six rigid spines with flexible bristles, which create a structure similar to a bird’s feather.

one thing that
shows that
insects are
superior to men
is the fact that
insects run their
affairs without
political campaigns
elections and so forth
– Don Marquis, “random thoughts by archy,” archy s life of mehitabel, 1933 –

The Flutter Files
Name: Six-plume Moth
Species: Alucita montana (Family Alucitadae)
Native to:  southeastern Canada and western provinces and states from central Alberta to western Texas (but not in desert regions.)
Date Seen:  September 2022
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Notes:  pale grey with faint, transverse banding of dark brown and tan, more distinct on the forewing, especially the costal edge.

25 thoughts on “Invasion of the Six-Plume Moths

  1. I really enjoy Don Marquis. As for the moths, I can only imagine. Around here we have Miller Moths in the early summer and they are a nuisance. When I worked at the insurance company I took a claim where a guy was driving an older vehicle and when he opened the vents the car filled with moths and he went off the road. No human injuries but the car was totaled. Now I’m going to be thinking of your story when I go to change my furnace filters.

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    1. I can picture the man in the car, having seen the action of the furnace installer as the moths surrounded his head!
      The furnace installers used a smaller mesh screen to cover the duct where the moths came in. That should stop any more insects that size.
      It was great to have professionals inspect and upgrade our 30 year old heating/cooling system!

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    2. I knew at least one reader would mention the Miller moths. Their annual migration is the only experience where I identify with yours, but at least we can control – for the most part – their presence inside the house. Otherwise they flit about the outside lights by the hundreds. Eventually they move on, up and over the Rocky Mountains. I’m told their final destination is somewhere in Utah. I hope you’ve seen your last moth by the time you posted this story!

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  2. Omigosh. One of my fears ever since my sister returned to an infested home after a long absence (see had left a bag of something open when she left that acted as a breeding ground).

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    1. I’m glad that these moths are not eaters of anything – but I know how disgusting it can be to find something living in a bag of flour or cereal or such. That was one of the problems we had when we lived in the Middle East.

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  3. OMG!!!!! I can’t imagine. Pat will be really careful when he cleans the filters on our furnaces to get ready for winter this year.

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  4. I feel sorry for the furnace man, but also you having to deal with them in the house. Caddis flies tend to be our worst pest at certain times in the summer. I love learning about insects that are new to me. This one is quite attractive!

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