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5 Amazing Facts that Will Make You Love Moths

5 Amazing Facts that Will Make You Love Moths

When was the last time you sat down and appreciated the humble moth? I know moths, at least where I live, tend to be a little drab, but they’re actually fascinating creatures. Luckily, it’s National Moth Week, so you have an excuse to get outside and investigate moths in all their glory!

You can find an event in your area or you can set out some bait and see what shows up because, as the following facts show, moths are as diverse, strange and beautiful as any other insect.

1. Moths get bigger than you might think. And also smaller.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

When I think of moths, I usually think of relatively small, winged insects. Maybe an inch long. But actually moths vary in size greatly. The Atlas moth is considered to be the largest moth, with a wingspan of about 10 inches. Lay your hands down side-by-side on a table so your thumbs are touching. The Atlas moth’s wingspan is a little bigger than that. It also has a surface area of 62 square inches. That is one enormous moth.

If moths can be super big, they can also be super small. Very super small. A yet to be described moth from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was discovered in 2012. It’s only 1 mm long with a wingspan of 2 to 2.5 mm. The length of this tiny moth is comparable to a typed period. We’re talking very, very small.

2. Moths helped show that natural selection actually happens.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Evolution is a scientific fact, and it just so happens that the humble moth helped illustrate the mechanism of evolution, by which I mean natural selection.

Peppered moths live all over the world and they come in light and dark varieties. In England in the 1950s, coal dust was getting all over everything, including trees. The trees in question naturally had white-ish bark. Thanks to a good coal-dusting, the bark was now black. The light peppered moths were then easier for birds to spot and therefore catch and eat. The population of light moths decreased while the population of black moths increased because their dark color was better camouflage. As Britain made air quality better, the trees went from black to white again, and black peppered moths became rarer and light peppered moths became common.  It’s hard to find a more stark example of how natural selection works than that.

3. Moths are masters of disguise.

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Diaz, University of Florida

 

No, I’m not just talking about how some people can’t tell the difference between butterflies and moths. There are some types of moths that are actually really good at disguising themselves as their scarier insect brethren. For example, both moths from genus Cosmosoma and from the family Sesiidae mimic wasps. These two types of moths have lost the scales on their wings so they look clear and have yellow stripes on their bodies. The Scarlet-bodied wasp moth, pictured above, is another example.They don’t look like the moths we’ve come to know and love. Moths don’t always mimic stingy insects to avoid predators, though. The Buff-tip moth looks suspiciously like a broken branch when it’s sitting still.

4. Some moths have no mouths and don’t eat.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

 

It sounds weird but it’s totally true. While some moths do suck nectar and are important pollinators, others don’t have a mouth at all. For example, the Atlas moth mentioned earlier has no mouth, neither does the luna moth. As such, these gorgeous (and big) moths only live for a bout a week. Their sole function in this phase of their lives is reproduction.

5. There are nine times more species of moths than butterflies.

Photo Credit: jetheriot

Even though butterflies get a lot more press, there are far fewer species than their similar cousins. There are about 17,500 known species of butterfly and, while that’s a lot, there are 160,000 known species of moth.

As you can see, moths are everywhere, and in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors, so make sure to take some time this National Moth Week to appreciate them!

 

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Photo credit: Fernando Kokubun

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284 comments

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2:08PM PDT on Oct 6, 2014

thanks -- love moths :)

1:46AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

noted

1:24AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

The 1st pic is a skipper butterfly

8:42PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

Totally fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

4:26PM PDT on Aug 1, 2014

Who knew!?!!

6:46AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

some insects are really pretty!!

6:26AM PDT on Jul 27, 2014

liked noted and shared

7:27PM PDT on Jul 25, 2014

Some moths are really beautiful. I had a bad experience with some though. My late husband and I were on vacation and the motel room we were given didn't have air conditioning that worked so we asked for another room. What a mistake. The next room they gave us was full of moths. We were too tired to go to another motel so we just covered our heads and with the sheets and stuck it out. It was a nightmare. I guess that's what you get for stopping in a small town without a choice of motels to choose from.

12:01PM PDT on Jul 25, 2014

Thanks I didn't know any of that, very interesting stuff :)

10:06AM PDT on Jul 25, 2014

Thanks for sharing!

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