It is common knowledge that insects like butterflies and moths do not feed on blood, or at least not on human blood, like mosquitoes do. However, a couple of years ago, scientists have discovered a species of blood feeding moths which are similar to the Siberian moths; the Calyptra thalictri,. Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary behaviour that has developed from traits like feeding on tears and pus filled wounds (Roach, 2008) .
But why do they feed on blood? As seen in the video, research has shown that these moths only exhibit this trait under experimental conditionals. In other words, they only exhibited feeding of blood in an non-natural environment. Therefore, whether this behaviour occurs under natural conditions is unknown.
It is also interesting to note that this blood feeding behaviour is only seen in males. Scientists have hypothesised that males engage in such behaviour because of a deficiency in nutrients like salt. It is also believed to be a ‘sexual gift’ since salt is passed to the females during copulation. According to the Entomologist Jennifer Zaspel, this sexual gift would give a nutritional boost to the young (Roach, 2008).
Calyptra thalictri are common in the regions of Malaysia and southern Europe. So the next time we head to Malaysia, do we need to bring bags of garlic to ward off these potentially blood sucking moths? No, not so much. Apparently,these moths are not believed to be transmitters of disease and hence are not considered as a threat to humans (Simpson, 2008) . But nothing is certain as of now as research is still underway to learn more about these moths.
This evolutionary process of the moths got me thinking. If Man keeps destroying nature, this type of insects and many others will naturall evolve into blood feeding creatures because of the lack of food. If that happens, what else can Man do then wipe out these insects? Let’s hope this evolutionary process does these insects more good than harm.
“Vampire Moths Discovered” by National Geographic. YouTube Channel, 18 November 2008 URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2VQZc8PebA&feature=fvst (accessed on 28 March 2010.
Roach, J. (27 October, 2008). Vampire Moth Discovered — Evolution at Work. Retrieved 30 March , 2010, from National Geographic Daily News: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/10/081027-vampire-moth-evolution-halloween-missions.html
Simpson, P. V. (28 July , 2008). Vampire moth turns up in Sweden. Retrieved 30 March, 2010, from The Local : Sweden’s News in English: http://www.thelocal.se/13338/20080729/
Zaspel, J. M., Kononenko, V. S., & Goldstein, P. Z. (2007). Another Blood Feeder? Experimental Feeding of a Fruit-Piercing Moth Species on Human Blood in the Primorye Territory of Far Eastern Russia (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae: Calpinae). Journal of Insect Behaviour , 437-451.
“Vampire Moth Discovered — Evolution at Work” by Sharon Hill. National Geographic News. URL:http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/images/081027-vampire-moth-evolution-halloween-missions_big.jpg (accessed on 30 March 2010)