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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

The Alpacas, the Barn Owl and the Moths

Elizabeth Saville

Nature can play the most amazing tricks on us. Who would have thought that going into alpacas would decimate my wardrobe? Oh no, not because the alpacas took all the cash, let me tell you of the strange, or do I mean perfectly logical happenings at Motcombe.

Before the Alpacas arrived at the beginning of 2004, the farm had feral cats that took care of the rat and mouse problems around and in the buildings and fodder stores; these were fed at tea time by me, and in the morning they shared breakfast with the neighbouring farmers. They were sufficiently wild to never let anyone close, and we never found their kittens. At this time the area, which is a conservation area, abounded with bird life; each year many swallows nested in the big barn, foxes and badgers, deer and munkjac were daily visitors.

Then strange things began to happen when the alpacas arrived. Three weeks after they had claimed ownership to the fields, the stables and yards, all the feral cats DISAPPEARED. I did miss them, even more so as field mice began finding their way into the house. The foxes that had always hunted in the field outside the kitchen, now stayed away, leaving more mice and baby rabbits to multiply. The deer and muntjak keep their distance, luckily now out of the garden. Then in August 2004 a barn owl took up residence in the Big Barn. The first time this had happened in the thirty one years we have been here. It moulted, scattering beautifully marked feathers over the barn floor that were a delight to visiting youngsters from a primary school. The barn owl stayed with us until February 2005 - by which time the mouse population had been reduced to manageable numbers. So the barn owl had to thank the alpacas for removing the cats and allowing him to feed over winter.

Now comes the next sequence to this puzzle. Daddy Owl returned with a wife at the end of March and set up home at the top of the barn in an owl box that had been there for many years. In July 2005 their three offspring fledged, spending three or four weeks in the barn on the huge beams, and would sit there in daylight and look at me, before flying off into nearby trees. During this period March to July we had piles of owl pellets. For those who do not know, these are balls of rodent skins with the bones wrapped inside that the owls spit out when they have digested all the edible parts of the animal; they do not smell and are quite hygienic to give to schools for their biology classes. I left these on the floor promising myself I would sweep them up and wash out the barn in the summer

Imagine my shock when the Hawk & Owl Trust who are monitoring these birds, told me that clothes moths lay their eggs in owl pellets, these being their favourite nests, and as one expert kicked a couple pellets out flew too many moths.

Oh dear. My beautiful Alpacas are fully responsible for the introduction of MOTHS in their hundreds. The moths have had a wonderful time in the wardrobes and cupboards in the house - and I have winter woollies with summer ventilation. Brrrrrrrrrrrr.!

I love the alpacas and the barn owl , who is one of nature’s beauties; to get rid of the
moths and their breeding ground I would have to lose both of them. I am amazed at
this cycle of nature. Has anyone come across the same scenario? Of course I will not part with the alpacas, but would love to GIVE away the moths.