Thursday, February 2, 2012

On the wings of Day-Flying Moths: musings on survival and color

Hey ya'll 

First things first: and update on the Termite Situation: the manager's been pretty tardy with his response on the little pest situations so I suppose we have been 'forced' to tolerate our most unwelcome house mates for the time being. The only good thing that can come from this is that (after poisoning the wooden skirting of our unit) the termites seem to have given up trying to come in anymore and have moved on to other floors. I'm counting on more tenants to make a bigger deal out of this... maybe then they will do something about it. (Meanwhile, we're also trying to find other cheap and convenient places to move out to... ) 

But all of that aside, the month of January has been pretty quiet for this amateur entomologist, and most of the specimens I have added to my display were really butterflies I acquired the month (or several months) before. Not so for the month of February though, as the very first excursion out of my house for the month produced a rather promising and striking find!!! 

Dysphania subrepleta.

This lovely insect is a moth of the genus dysphania and like its close cousins, the butterflies, it too flies during the day! Colors are of not much use for insects who fly during the night, but for those that fly during the day, color can make all the difference between life and death for you see, the wings of many butterflies and day flying moths (with their bright coloration and striking patterns) also function as billboards which advertise their unpalatability to other animals that might otherwise seek to make a quick meal out of a slow-flying insect!  Consequently, that which attracts us most to these beautiful insects, are often that which repels other animals like rodents and birds! Interestingly enough, (and this is just pure speculation on my part) the term "dysphania" which is the moth's latin name, seems suspiciously similar to the English word dysphagia which refers to a difficulty in swallowing.  Coincidence? I think not!

Indeed, in the case of this particular lepidoptera genus, yellow and black seems to be a recurring theme with all members of its species which is unsurprising since the same striking colors are incorporated into many other animals as well such as several species of snakes, birdwing butterflies of the genus troides, and of course, hornets and bees, all of which possess venomous bites/stings or are unpalatable themselves which acts to reinforce their unpalatability even more! A bird, for instance, whose had a nasty run in with a black and yellow snake, or had the misfortune of sampling the foul tasting troides butterfly, would instinctively think twice before attacking anything that was black and yellow again in the future, and that's how these things work I suppose. I think it is called "aposematism" (if you wish to know more about aposematism, may I present the amazing guys and gals of

In the meantime, I suppose that I will be adding this moth as the first of its species to my ever growing collection. I can only hope that my much-needed-long-awaited-most-anticipated vacation to Genting Highlands (OH MY GOD IT'S JUST 8 DAYS AWAY!!!) will yield some results. I know I'm mainly going there to de-stress and unwind, but I'm hoping to find my fair share of lepidoptera as well!!! Until then~ 


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