Nov 1, 2008

Vampire Moth

What better way to bring in November (and mark the day after Halloween) than with the vampire moth? I know, at first mention the vampire moth may not instill any dread in you. But, please, read on.

The vampire moth was recently discovered in Russia, in two separate populations. This moth has forsaken the traditional fruit in favor of the forbidden fruit: human blood. What's amazing about this moth is it is virtually indistinguishable from its fruit-eating cousins of the same species (Calyptra thalictri).

See that moth perched on that finger? See its tongue, how it has a nice red tint to it? That's because this researcher offered up his finger, and the moth obliged him by drilling into his finger with its hook-and-barb-lined tongue and tapping it for blood.

Photo source: National Geographic



















The vampire is virtually indistinguishable from the fruit-eating variety. Only minor variations in the wing pattern would give you any warning that the moth fluttering about the lamp post is sniffing you out for blood.


Some researchers see this adaptation as a means of getting greater insight into how insects move from eating nectar to eating blood. Here's one possible progression: lapping at nectar to behaviors that result in drilling into fruit to eating tears and dung and pus-filled wounds to using that same drilling technique to dine on blood.

Not the most wholesome progression, but progress none the less. I can imagine grandpa moth saying, "Ah, back in my day we didn't eat puss and blood like the rascals these days. We ate fruit! That's the way it was, and that's the way we liked it!"

On the positive side, though you may not be able to distinguish the vampire from its benign form, you can protect yourself. They can't enter your home without your permission, they're allergic to sunlight and garlic, and they can't cross running water. It's unknown if they have any other forms (gaseous, wolf, bat, etc.), though the moth below does have a bat-like quality to it.




















Thanks for the vampire moth, Tanya and Ida.

8 comments:

Kit said...

I'm going to have to school this moth to go back to eating fruit or I'm going to stake it through the... er... thorax.
Mothball holy symbol necklaces are going to be all the rage out there.

Anonymous said...

There's also the possibility that the moth evolved a close resemblance to its cousin in order to fool its prey.

Hellphyre said...

and I suppose that they've begun talks with the mosquitos to form an alliance...

Anonymous said...

First a fruit eating spider and now a blood-sucking moth...thats nature in reverse for you...

Bird said...

Ok, I am one of those people who is especially attractive to biting insects for some reason... and now I am NEVER visiting Russia. That thing is huge!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what is more gross. The moth or the finger nail in the second picture..

Anonymous said...

omg i have a huge phobia for moths and seen the word vampire moth and i nearly cryed so now im shatting myself.. my worst nightmare has come true and i have proven people wrong now though as they said moths cant do anything to you blah blah BUT NOW THEY ARE SUCKING BLOOD!!!?!!?! AAAAAAAAAAAhh.. i feel like im going to be vomit

Anonymous said...

Wow, a vampire moth. I wonder if I could keep a few as pets. They could share my meals with me.