Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Spooky Sphingidae (Hawkmoths)
Acherontia atropos, is a hawkmoth with possibly the most dire reputation of any insect! Let it be noted.., for the most ridiculous reasons.
There is a supposed “skull” on the thorax…That is, you can see it if you have been smoking your socks. It has yellow ribs on the abdomen making it look like a skeleton? …if you have been conducting an in depth investigation into the joys of caipirinhas, and it makes a high-pitched squeaking noise if you disturb it…well Duh!
“It is regarded not as the creation of a benevolent being, but the device of evil spirits - spirits enemies to man - conceived and fabricated in the dark, and the very shining of its eyes is thought to represent the fiery element whence it is supposed to have proceeded. Flying into their apartments in the evening at times it extinguishes the light; foretelling war, pestilence, hunger, death to man and beast.” (Harris, 1840)
So, not satisfied with wiping out habitats at an alarming rate, our species of course proceeds to demonize species that it does not appreciate. The “ Deaths head moth’ among them. The entomologists that named this moth played to the audience by placing it in the genus Acherontia derived from Acheron, the “River of Pain” in the underworld, and gave it the species name “Atropos” name of the Fate who cuts the thread of life.
In popular culture the moth can be seen in the movie “Silence of the Lambs” where a deranged killer (As if there were some other type) places a pupa of this moth in the mouth of his victim.
In reality Acherontia has a fascinating life style, being able to sneak into the hives of bees and subdue the colony by emitting a high pitched squeak that mimics the frequency sound that the new queen bee uses as she emerges from her cell and proceeds to hunt down and kill all the rival queens that have developed along with her. The queen emits this squeak to calm the nest of bees as she fights the other would-be queens in the battle for supremacy.
It may also be chemically invisible to bees because it produces the exact same odours that the colony makes, on its exoskeleton. One consideration that it needs to take into account is that it will not be able to produce the colony-calming whistle once its “Stomach” is full. This means it needs to be near the exit before its full. Long may these beautiful creatures visit us here in Mozambique, and let all the superstitious mumbo-jumbo exit our culture.