Although moths fall short on the beauty side of the spectrum, they certainly exhibit remarkable behaviour.
Recently, I found myself intrigued by the behaviour of these strange flying insects. I also feel sorry for moths, as they remind me of an ugly stepsister to the butterfly; family, but somehow never managing to live up to the same expectations society sets for them. The status quo in this case is that butterflies are beautiful and moths are the repugnant, unsophisticated version of butterflies.
When I think about it, both of these are just flying insects with wings, right? Well, upon closer inspection there are indeed some differences between moths and butterflies, over and above stating the obvious difference which is that butterflies are beautifully coloured, while moths are drab and dull. Moths are practical in design; they have a frenulum, which is a wing-coupling mechanism that joins the forewing to the hind wing, in order for the wings to work in unison during flight, while the butterfly’s front and hind wings can flutter independently, which is more aesthetically pleasing. Moths’ antennae are saw-edged and feathery, while butterflies are elongated and club shaped. Furthermore, butterflies are daytime fliers, while moths prefer hanging low in evenings.
Moths are geniuses in mimicry
Whatever these drab little insects lack in looks, they definitely make up for in creativity. Some moth species are great at disguising themselves. The Lygodium Spider Moth makes use of patterns on its wings that resemble the shape of a spider. This clever mimicry ensures that these moths scare off spiders by spreading their wings, making spiders think that they have met one of their own kind! Metalmark moths of the Brenthia genus (also known as jumping spiders) have been reported to arrange their wings to impersonate a spider’s stance which will cause the spider to either back off to avoid conflict, thinking it might be another spider, or it might trigger territorial poses (the waving of its front legs).
It has also been reported that a certain moth species such as the Ectoedemia heckfordi have been found to disguise themselves as something rather unsatisfactory – droppings! When this moth was discovered it was thought that it was a usual caterpillar. But the strange white caps covering its eyes made Bob Heckford, a solicitor, spot this strange creature in the woods. This tiny moth has a wingspan of 6mm, and is suspected that their white eye caps play an important role in avoiding the attention of birds. Since birds aim for the eyes, even for a small species as the Ectoedemia heckfordi, the white-capped eyes may be a way to make the moth appear like a bird dropping. These little moths do really go a long way to avoid being attacked!
Ever wondered why there is some form of ‘powder’ on moths’ wings?
Over and above employing camouflage, moths are an interesting species. Ever wondered what the dust-like element on their wings could be? These are actually tiny overlapping scales! These scales trap a layer of “dead air” next to the wing surface, giving this flying insect added lift when flying. They also ensure the moths’ survival, protecting them against orb-weaving spiders. Once caught in a spider’s web, its scales stick to the web and the moth is able to flutter away.
What to do when moths enter your home?
Although moths do fall short on the beauty side of the spectrum, in their defense, they certainly exhibit remarkable behavior. Moths know how to protect themselves in the wild, but what happens when they enter our homes?
As moths are positively charmed by light, they often find themselves inside our homes and can – unfortunately for us – cause damage while in our living areas. They enjoy laying eggs inside dark, undisturbed areas, usually where clothes or textiles are stored. This can include spare rooms and under beds and cupboards that are not often made use of.
Even though these flying insects do not pose a major health risk, they chew holes in textile products such as clothes, fabric, leather and carpets. To prevent moths from damaging your precious wardrobe or furniture, make sure to regularly vacuum to remove moth eggs before they hatch. Moths are also attracted to dirty or soiled clothing, so make sure to always clean clothes before storing them. If you have any material or fabric goods lying around, be sure to pack them away into a sealed container or bag where moths can’t get access to them.
Moth balls containing naphthalene can be used to get rid of moths, although it is not recommended that one make use of them for extended periods as the chemicals they contain can be dangerous, and can leave behind a strong smell. While DIY moth control can help you get rid of moths in your home, a professional pest control service will be required for larger infestations.
I must say that after discovering these interesting facts about moths, I’m still wary of them, as I must say if I were to choose between my wardrobe and their accommodation in my home, the choice would be obvious! I would rather call in Rentokil to employ a moth control treatment, so I don’t have to spend money and time replacing my furniture or clothing collection.