Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Millers Are Moths

My life in appalachia - Millers are Moths

The warm weather we’ve been having is crazy-everything is budded or bloomed out and I’ve seen bees and bugs a plenty-even inside my house.

We leave a small light at the kitchen sink on at night-I guess we started leaving it on back in the days of 2am bottle feedings and just never got out of the habit.

Every morning for the last week when I stumble bleary eyed to the kitchen to start the coffee-I’ve been met by a covey of millers.

The first morning or 2 I tried to get them and put them out the kitchen door-I’m pretty sure they just flew around the end of the house and came back in the window-even though The Deer Hunter assures me they’re not coming in the closed window. I’ve since given up on the catch and release method.

The odd appearance of so many millers this early in the year-did bring a funny story my way.

One of The Deer Hunter’s friends said last summer a miller flew right in his ear and he couldn’t get it out-he got his wife to dig around with tweezers-he even tried washing it out with a shot of water.

Once he realized he couldn’t get it out-he headed to the doctor’s office. When the doc came in the examining room and asked what the problem was-he told him “a miller flew in my ear and I can’t get it out” the doc said “a what flew in your ear?” That went back and forth a few times until finally he got the doc to understood a miller is a moth-at least it is around here.

I checked my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English to see what it had to say about millers. The dictionary said perhaps using miller for moth came about because their powdery wings resemble dust that accumulates on a grinding mill. I don’t know about that-but I do know any morning now I expect to wake up with Moth Man hovering over me in retaliation for what I’ve done to his friends.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    March 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    I’ve been putting them out too. Not sure how they’re getting in to begin with as all our windows have screens.
    Our dad called ’em Millers, but everyone else I recall just called ’em Moths.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Mothman! Funny!!
    I say miller also. But to me moths are the large powdery winged creatures. And a miller are the smaller ones.

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    March 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I’ve always known them to be millers..we have a lot of insects to..they get in the house some how during the day..we to leave a little light on in the kitchen and they cover it at times..Susie

  • Reply
    kenneth o.hoffman
    March 23, 2012 at 12:59 am

    tipper; well they have always been millers to me, but no one every accused me of being overly smart. thanks for keeping the blogs comming . being away from from the great northwest has its drawbacks. bye the bye, we have just made a comitment to make the trek bake to the smokies this year, even have been offered a place to stay for a spell. keep those blogs comming. k.o.h

  • Reply
    John Reese
    March 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I grew up callin them millers. Later years I had to speak proper english and had to call them moths. I still regress at times. I work in a steel mill 41 years now and still at it. Years ago I used to catch millers and put them in a brown paper bag. A few hundred at a time, they seem to like the lights and heat in the coke plant. When I figured I had enough I would take them inside of the operators pulpit open the bag and sit it in the corner. He sure got mad, he hated millers.God rest his soul he never did find out it was me.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Ethelene-Did you know that carbide produces acetylene gas. The same stuff they was to cut iron and steel. It burns extremely hot and produces a brilliant light. When I was a kid our neighbor had a carbide light that you wore on a hard hat. He put water in a little tank on top and it dripped down into another tank that had carbide in it. The acetylene gas came out in the center of a reflector that had a striker like on a cigarette lighter. When he lite it, it made a very bright light. If a miller or a moth or any kind of insect flew into it, it would be instantly cremated.
    I’ve never seen or heard of carbide being used as fuel for a stove or iron, but don’t see why it wouldn’t work. You’ve got my curiosity up now. I’ll have to research it.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    They’ve always been millers to me.
    As to Ethelene Dyer Jones’ comment
    about carbide lighting and other
    uses, I had a slightly different use of those carbide pellets. We
    used them in lanterns for coon
    hunting as well, but every year
    around Christmas time daddy would
    buy us a can or two of carbide to
    shoot, instead of firecrackers.
    He showed us how to wedge a Coca
    can in the forks of our big ole
    Winesap tree, take a nail and punch a hole in the back, then add
    a few pellets and a splash of water through the front and snap
    the lid back on. In just a few seconds you could go back around where the nail hole was with a lighted match and Ka-Boom, what a
    racket! Then you had to find the
    lid. That was a lot of fun to a
    couple of young boys…Ken

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    March 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Good post but all I can say it the seasons are changing and so is the wildlife.
    This could be only the beginning.

  • Reply
    B f
    March 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    millers is what i heard them called ,
    now we here in central ky are having a lot of bumble bees, wasps, wood bees, you name it
    this morning i went to get gas , opened the gas tank and there was a wasp nest(just in a few days time) one fell out and stung me
    the attendant came out and sprayed the nest and they rolled out and we smashed them , now i tell you that was a mean sting , they are infesting everywhere here
    what is going on with all these pests?

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    March 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    lol tipper your post made me laugh about the moth man.. and we call them millers here in pa.. least around my corner of the world they do.. and yep. spring has sprung here.. and ya wanna know what has been finding their way into my house.. yep.. ladybugs…. been finding them all over the place..
    what i dont like are those big fuzzy bees that try to bore into raw wood like the underside of our front porch.
    hope all are well and happy in this spring sunshine.. sending big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    We call them millers and moths up here.
    I don’t think you need to worry about mothman – he’s more from my neck of the woods! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Love your remark about Moth Man- too funny!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    March 22, 2012 at 11:06 am

    While I agree that I don’t like critters flying throughout my house,I have to admit that some of them are quite attractive. I guess it Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that there are other creatures around us.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 22, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Since we are speaking of bugs..uhh sortof…I have been hearing complaints from folks about the amount of insects showing up this year…
    For instance….
    Flys everywhere…on the docks, on doors, even on sidewalks in the city…etc.ect…What’s Up!
    Ants..really bad…I have never seen so many…so far the fire ants that we had a few years ago have not shown back up…
    But the black ants are outside everywhere crawling..I try to keep bait in our country home to repell them inside…
    Carpenter bees…More than I have ever seen in the your decks folks and wooden windows..
    Not so much yet is the Red “devil” Wasper…
    Of course the ticks and one is too many for me…and of course the millers and moths…
    This Spring early summer may be an infestation of web worms too..
    Just shows to go how bad we can always use at least one month of a few days of zero or below freezing for a few days….
    Thanks Tipper, I would appreciate any interesting comments from folks about the insect increase, if it is OK with you?

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    March 22, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I always called them moths, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard them called millers. So, I guess I’m a city boy on this one.
    I had a worse insect in my ear, one time. I was riding my motorcycle when a yellow jacket hit my neck and stayed there. As I was trying to stop, it crawled up under my helmet and into my ear. I was scared to death. I figured if it stung me, I would probably go deaf. I finally got stopped and took off my helmet, still having no idea what to do. The yellow jacket just turned around, crawled back out, and flew away!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 10:09 am

    We always called them “millers” too! I have heard that it is because they are dusty like a miller would have been after he had worked in a gristmill all day.
    Have you ever heard the tune “Dusty Miller?”

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    March 22, 2012 at 9:48 am

    I always thought they were called millers because they milled around the lights. My wife is teaching my granddaughter to crochet and tat. Tatting is nearly a lost art. The little girl loves it.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 22, 2012 at 9:44 am

    We started having millers, moths early on this year…I could not believe it and it was still nippy at night!…We have movement lights outside and try to keep the blinds closed after dark but they still find their way inside..
    I’ve been seeing bats more, so they have found them too and I suppose the nighthawks will be feasting on them soon, as well..
    I’ve heard my Grandpa (the one that had the mill) speak of millers and was wary of them..
    No one likes to see millers fly from their Hoosier flour/meal bin..LOL
    Now then, I happen to love moths…Especially the big old two eyed brown ones and the big Green Luna Moths…One year for the fun of it..I kept a light on the back porch to see what types of moths/millers we had around our place…Some are just beautiful..small white ones, different shapes of wings, small greenish ones…Long since forgot the names…
    Just for “poops and grins”!
    ED…What type moth/miller balls do you use for storage of winter “woolies”? Just kidding, but I never seen a big purty one when I unpacked my “woolies”…I would probably faint!
    I couldn’t stand it, “the devil made me do it”, Ed!…and yes I tend to call the beautiful ones moths and the irritating tiny brown ones…millers..LOL
    But…I am worried about the Gypsy moths and the trees they invade..I have seen those dead tip branches in our area…
    Thanks for a wonderful post Tipper, Millers or Moths or both!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I have always called them millers, and I totally understand why you prefer the catch and release method. Millers look a lot like a butterfly not something you would want to squish with a fly swatter.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Ew, moth in the ear, reminds me of a Star Treck episode…
    Thank you for the link to the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, you are the best:)!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 9:20 am

    In south Texas millers were the moths that get so thick that you have to stop in every town on a trip to scrape the front of your car. They cover your windshield, your headlights, your grill. I’ve even seen them get so thick on a grill that the car overheats…They smear on the windshield when you try to run the washer.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    March 22, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I never heard of a moth, until I read it somewhere. If Moth Man, the Miller, shows up just train him to turn on the coffee!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I don’t think I ever heard the word moth until I moved to the big city. I’m like The Deer Hunter’s friend, always trying to explain what a miller is. Most of the time I convince the listeners that they are the ones who didn’t pay close enough attention in school.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I like the story about their dusty wings reminding us of the dust from a grinding mill. We grew up calling them Miller’s as well.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    March 22, 2012 at 8:14 am

    You better watch out, you don’t want to upset The Mothman! My grandma used to have a thing about flies. We used to sit on her front porch and she’d swat them with her ‘fly flopper’, all day. It’s a wonder we didn’t put them on the endangered list.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

    i have never heard them called millers, we just call them moths. if i forget after dark and leave my bathroom window on, they swarm to the screen until i turn off the light. it is rare for one to get in the house though. we have these and a few others here that are much bigger.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    March 22, 2012 at 7:41 am

    I always heard a miller was a kind of moth. You’re right about all the bugs out and about already. My car is covered with their little dead bodies.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 22, 2012 at 7:35 am

    I’ve always called them moths cause that’s what my manna called them but I’ve certainly heard them called millers. Never gave any thought to why they might be called millers.
    You are very kind, Tipper, trying to help the winged flying critters outside. Me, not so much, lol I kill them on site!
    So what’s the rest of the story? How did the doctor get the moth out of the man’s ear?
    Once when the Deer Hunter was small we were camping at Sunburst and a small child in the campground got a bug in his ear. The child and mother were both hysterical. The bug was alive therefore buzzing in his ear. We used a straw to hold about a half teaspoon of cooking oil and dropped it in the child’s ear and let it sit for about a minute then had him lay down with that ear toward the pillow. In a few minutes the dead bug (drowned in oil) came dripping out.
    The good old days, except I don’t like camping and I don’t like bugs.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 22, 2012 at 7:22 am

    irritating bugs they are, I remember them from last spring.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    March 22, 2012 at 7:19 am

    I don’t know if we made a distinction between “miller” and “moth” in Choestoe, North Georgia, when I grew up. But i remember these flying creatures being drawn to our “carbide” lights because the glow of the gas was so enticing to them (I suppose). Did any of you have a “carbide system” of lighting your home? Ours was the only one I knew about in our community. We had a large buried tank at the side of our yard to hold the bags of carbide crystals that had to be replenished in a big “operation” once a year! But we did have good light–‘way before electricity came out our road–and we also had a two-burner carbide stove that supplemented the wood-cooking stove; and we had a carbide-powered iron to iron our clothes!
    But oh, how those moths and millers liked our beautiful lights when spring came!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    March 22, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Maybe they are called millers because they mill around a light bulb?

  • Reply
    Donna W
    March 22, 2012 at 7:07 am

    When I was growing up in north Missouri, everybody called moths millers. I had totally forgotten about it! Thanks for the memory. (And in my world, moths and millers were the same… my mom often even called them “miller-moths”.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 6:23 am

    Ed-thats a pretty good explanation-thank you! And no-that lace isn’t handmade-but I wish it was : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    March 22, 2012 at 6:08 am

    We also called them millers. As for this catch and release routine, I once knew a sweet lady that used to do that. She made a lasting impression on me. She couldn’t stand to hurt anything. I was proud to call her Momma.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 22, 2012 at 5:44 am

    When I was coming up millers and moths were different animals. Millers were the little annoying ones that flew in your mouth and left a dusty spot where you swatted them. Moths were the big pretty ones. Weevils that got in your corm meal turned into millers. Moths on the other hand started as those big green baccer worms with a horn on each end. That’s my story and I’m stickin to it.
    That lace that the millers are fixin to munch on. Is it hand made? My momma used to make lace like that. She called it “tating.”

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