Community Agriculture Alliance: Fall home invaders

Todd Hagenbuch
Routt County CSU Extension
An adult multi-plumed moth (Alucita montana) is shown here.
Colorado State Extension/Courtesy photo

The changing of the seasons is upon us. Hard freezes have suddenly hit Routt County, putting an end to what has been a warm, wonderful late summer. Vegetable gardens have quit producing, flowers have bloomed, and the leaves are changing before our eyes.

As the seasons change, many of our small outdoor critters are looking for refuge indoors, and you may have noticed an uptick in unwelcome visitors in your homes over the past few weeks.

“Many-plume moths,” more specifically the Montana six-plume moth (Alucita montana) have been invading homes in great numbers the past few weeks. These small, wispy moths are typically between 5.5-6.5 millimeters wide, and each wing has six fringed, plume-like sections.

They seek shelter as the weather turns colder, and seek refuge under bark, in woodpiles, and, yes, in homes and other buildings. They have no interest in your clothes (which has been a worry for several people who have called the extension office) but instead are just seeking protection from the coming winter weather.

Montana six-plume moth larvae typically eat snowberry, which is a small shrub that grows prolifically in our area. Given the excellent moisture we have seen this year, snowberry has grown quite well and the moth, in turn, has had a great year, too.

Exclusionary measures are best to keep this moth from entering buildings, so making sure your window screens are tight, as well as your doors, will help keep them out. Vacuuming them or physical removal is the best course of action to remove them from your home.

A rise in the number of mice in homes and buildings has been reported recently as well. A cursory survey of others from around the state indicates that mice infestations are more noticeable in other areas, too.

As much of the state saw excellent moisture this year that increased plant growth (as noted above), it makes sense that animals that need good plant growth for cover and food are increasing in numbers, too. When the weather gets colder, they also look for protection from the elements and find ways into buildings.

Trapping mice is an age-old remedy for taking care of these nuisance invaders, but it has become less complicated in recent years with the advent of easier-to-set traps. Sticky traps, traps that allow one to release the live mouse, and house cats are all options for controlling mice in a home, but making sure that all holes in exterior walls are closed, door seals are tight, and garage doors are kept closed will help keep mice from invading in the first place.

A long, snowy winter helped rodents such as voles, pictured here, and pocket gophers escape predators under the snow in the Yampa Valley, so residents are seeing more of the rodents this fall.
Getty Images

Nuisance varmints are in our yards, too. Keep in mind that voles and pocket gophers had great protection from predation last year given our deep snows, and good plant growth this year has kept their populations flourishing throughout the summer.

If we get good snow cover again this year, voles in particular will be feasting on plants, small shrubs and tree bark all winter long. Protect those plants before the snow flies by warping trunks and plants with metal mesh or other protective materials so you don’t have damaged plants next spring.

For more information on these subjects and more, your local CSU Extension office is always available. Contact us at or call 970-879-0825.

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