Stories tagged Moths

Nov
19
2008

Did you ever wonder what those pesky moths ate before they ate your clothes in your closet? Clothes moths were known previously to feed on dead animals. Recently, scientists also discovered that the casemaking clothes moth, one of the two most common closet menaces, can be helpful in forensic work as well!

The casemaking clothes moth, so named because it makes a fuzzy case-like home for itself as a young caterpillar, will eat human hair and can even feed on corpses. The caterpillars can eat enough hair to identify a body with DNA.

These moths can be particularly helpful if a body is moved to a new location. The caterpillar will move to a nearby spot, away from the body, to make its cocoon. Then, if the body is moved, DNA evidence from the caterpillar in the cocoon can tie the victim to the original location.

More information on this can be found at Science News.

Oct
30
2008

Yeah, sort of scary: I mean, look what it's doing to the concept of public art! Oh, wait, this is the Mothman.
Yeah, sort of scary: I mean, look what it's doing to the concept of public art! Oh, wait, this is the Mothman.Courtesy billy liar
Hey, y’all, it’s time for a brand new Science Buzz feature: Is that, like… scary? On Is that, like… scary? we’ll be posing the question “Is that, like… scary?” with regards to one of the many, like, scary things out there. Out there in the world.

Because this is a brand new, first of its kind sort of thing, all y’all Buzzketeers should feel lucky: this could be a valuable experience. Not now, certainly, but I think it’s pretty likely that the cash value of this moment in history will be skyrocketing before too long. Heck, if you play your cards right, time the market, etc, you could pay your way through college just by telling people about this. So get on the boat, and ask yourself, “Is that, like… scary?

I don’t want to throw you guys into the deep end just yet, though—you have to crawl before you can walk, and you have to have the right clothing on before you can crawl, so let’s ease ourselves into this.

So… flesh-eating bacteria—Is that, like… scary? Duh, yes, it’s very like scary.

Feral dog packs—Is that, like… scary? Well, it’s sort of like scary.

Seasonal allergies—Is that, like… scary? No, dude, that’s not like scary.

This thing—Is that, like… scary? Uh, yeah, that’s a lot like scary.

Are you starting to get a feel for things here? Good. We can get to the meat now: vampire moths.

Are vampire moths, like… scary? Maybe, maybe. We’d better take a closer look, courtesy of National Geographic.

What we’ve got is a Siberian moth that, like the common vampire, does indeed suck blood. It uses its “hook-and-barb-lined tongue” to drill through skin and start slurping. And while vampire moths aren’t new, blood-drinking in this Siberian population actually does seem to be a recent adaptation—aside from the vampire thing, only slight differences in wing patterns distinguish the blood sucker from its vegetarian cousins, who use their pokey little tongues for jabbing fruit. But these moths, when offered a hand by the scientists, dug right in. So, at some not-so-long-ago point, the little apple-biters got the idea (in an evolutionary way) to just start drinking blood. Cuz it’s so good.

I think that makes them a little more, like, scary. If a little lamb passed up a handful of nutritious, green lamb food in favor of taking a chunk out of your wrist, it would be kind of creepy, wouldn’t it? That’s sort of how I feel about vampire moths.

It turns out that that only the male moths drink blood. Scientists aren’t totally sure why, but they think the blood allows the males to give female moths a gift of salt during copulation. Apparently lady moths are into salt. This specific salt-gathering strategy could have evolved from behaviors like drinking tears (that’s, like… creepy), feeding on dung (that’s, like… funny), and dipping into pus-filled wounds (that’s, like… getting closer to scary).

The next step for the researchers will be to compare the DNA of the vampires to their vegetarian cousins, to see how different they are, and how long it could have been since the species split apart.

So what do you think? Is that, like… scary?

Atlas moth: photo by Gregory Phillips
Atlas moth: photo by Gregory Phillips
Want to see some cool moth photos?

"Here are some of the strangest and most beautiful moths of the world" Neatorama