Thursday, October 30, 2014

Molly, Lilly and Tusti's Forest Mother of Pearl

It has been a day for moths and butterflies. Keep an eye out for beauties like this superb Nymphalid butterfly (Protogoniomorpha parhassus).

Trompe l'oeil in the world of moths

Here is an amazing display of deception, The moth above is from China and goes by the unwieldy name of Uropia meticulodina. It produces the image of a folded leaf with the shading in all the right places including the appropriate veins on the underside as it curls up. Even when you have seen through the trick you still can't believe it isn't a leaf. The two photos above it are from a moth on our own Mahogany tree that is in the centre of our AISM courtyard. The same principle applies even though the deception is not as superbly defined.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Third Pleasant Hornet Moth found at school this year. (By Jemma de Beer)

A real beauty (Gem): found in the girls change rooms by Jem de Beer.

Euchromia: the Handmaiden or Hornet moth.

Versions of this spectacular beauty are found from Southern Africa through East Africa and Madagascar to India Australia and Indonesia.

The fist thing you notice about them after ogling their dazzling array of warning colors is their reluctance to flitter off, as moths are wont to do. That’s when you realize that something else is going on here; creatures that are over-confident usually have a reason.

The warning colors are real; you do not want this gaudy speck in your cereal bowl! They practice what is called “Pharmacophagy” A jawbreaker that taken literally means, “ They eat (nasty) chemicals” so that they increase their biological fitness. This constitutes the habit of consuming drugs, that they get from their food plants so that they can themselves, become toxic to other animals.

Some food plants give off toxic nectar that gets them a devoted set of insect pollinators. The plants that the Hornet moth uses falls into this group. It is significant that the moth does not need this chemical for the ordinary nutrition of its body.

Euchromia also has a constriction on the abdomen that makes it look enough like a hornet, for predators to leave it severely alone. We have seen three of these moths in the last month at the AISM. As we increase the numbers of indigenous plants, I expect we will have more and more of these beauties to enjoy at school.

Len de Beer