If you’ve ever stayed in New Mexico in the spring, you’ve probably been whacked in the face by a miller moth. Every April, miller moths appear en masse, almost overnight, like red autumn leaves do on east coast trees. Except these bugs aren’t beautiful, they don’t mark the upcoming pumpkin spice season, and, unlike lovely, crunchy fall leaves, stepping on them will send a disgusted shiver up your spine.
I wasn’t planning on spending springtime in New Mexico. My boyfriend, Jordan, and I were going for a week to visit family and celebrate his birthday. A rejuvenating week, away from the addictive grind of Los Angeles – just what we needed!
Two days before our flight, Disneyland closed.
The announcement felt like a warning. Mickey Mouse isn’t going outside, maybe we shouldn’t either. A thunderstorm raged outside of our little apartment while we decided that we would drive to New Mexico. Maybe, because of – “what is it, Corona virus?” – we would stay an extra week. Sure, we thought, this might be overly cautious, but better to be safe than sorry. In two weeks, there would probably be a vaccine!
It became very clear very quickly that this COVID thing was going to last more than two weeks. We needed to come up with a new game plan. Jordan has asthma. Sometimes a cold that would bother me for a few days can knock him out for over a week. I wasn’t going to let him and my second favorite pair of lungs anywhere near the Petri dish that Los Angeles was becoming. So we stayed. We put our clothes in drawers. We made Mister a litter box out of a plastic storage box. We lost track of time.
Until the miller moths invaded.
Flurries of wings would sputter against the ceiling lights, clamoring under lampshades and flying directly – whomp! – into the windows. I would be in bed, swiping through YouTube on my phone on my eternal search for the perfect ASMR video and WHAP, a friggin miller moth would run face first into my screen. In the light of day, they dotted the walls and ceiling corners like tiny black bats. They were the sign of a changing season. We were staying in New Mexico and the world was moving on without us.
Mister, who usually doesn’t take interest in anything that isn’t his canned food, did not help with the situation. I found moth wings caught in the soft lamb fur of his tail as he napped peacefully. His sweet paws were tucked under him, and I could imagine him as a kitten. But there were moth carcasses in his food bowl and by his litter box. My little baby was a bloodthirsty killer!
The living room was basically a National Geographic documentary.
As annoying and gross as they were, the miller moths were so fragile, it was hard to stay mad at them. They got stuck in weird places, like behind the bathroom sink and in bedroom curtains. Fed up with seeing their pint-sized feathered bodies savagely whapping against lightbulbs, I googled why the heck they were so attracted to artificial light. It turns out miller moths aren’t violently bonking themselves against our lamps because they love it. They actually can’t help it.
Miller moths come into this world with a very specific goal: get to the mountains. It’s their purpose, it’s their mission, it’s their role in the food chain. Because once the moths arrive at their mountain destination, they become food for bears. Yeah, bears. Apparently, they don’t eat honey out of a cottagecore honey pot. Ugh, the lies media portrays.
Moths are high calorie foods, estimated to be 1/2 a calorie each. Bears preparing for their winter hibernation might eat 40,000 moths in one sitting. But in order to find their correct flight pattern, moths follow the light of the moon. Non-moon lights, like my phone screen, scramble their little minds. They don’t like to run into light.
The moths are actually … lost.
Maybe my lack of in-person human interaction was messing with me, but I felt like I could relate to those lost moths. They knew they had a purpose, a flight path meant just for them, but weird, out of control obstacles were messing with their mission. My flight path was, and always had been, Los Angeles, writing, creating, somehow making enough money to buy face creams. And now there was a pandemic. Even now, six months in, I lay awake in the dark for hours basically bonking my head against the light of my phone screen, trying to figure out how to cope.
Truth be told, I’m jealous of the miller moths that stay on their flight plan.
They know where they are going. Here on the ground, I’m anxious, listless, still pretty confused about why people aren’t wearing masks. Scrolling through my phone at bedtime messes with my sleep. I’m not sure where I fit in the world.
But moths? They fly above it all.
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