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|Emperor Gum Moth, Opodiphthera eucalypti|
Emperor Gum Moth, Opodiphthera eucalypti
- For other uses, see Moths
A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly. Both are of the order Lepidoptera. The differences between butterflies and moths is more than just taxonomy. Sometimes the names "Rhopalocera" (butterflies) and "Heterocera" (moths) are used to formalize the popular distinction. Many attempts have been made to subdivide the Lepidoptera into groups such as the Microlepidoptera and Macrolepidoptera, Frenatae and Jugatae, or Monotrysia and Ditrysia. Failure of these names to persist in modern classifications is due to the fact none of them represents a pair of "monophyletic groups". The reality is that butterflies are a small group that arose from within the "moths"[How to reference and link to summary or text] and there is thus no way to group all of the remaining taxa in a monophyletic group, as it will always exclude that one descendant lineage.
Etymology[edit | edit source]
The Modern English word "moth" comes from Old English "moððe" (cf. Northumbrian "mohðe") from Common Germanic (compare Old Norse "motti", Dutch "Mot" and German "Motte" all meaning "moth"), perhaps its origins are related to Old English "maða" meaning "maggot" or from the root of "midge" which until the 16th century was used mostly to indicate the larva, usually in reference to devouring clothes.
The study of butterflies and moths is known as lepidoptery, and biologists that specialise in either are called lepidopterists. As a pastime, watching butterflies and moths is known as butterflying and mothing. Moths are albino butterflys. The latter has given rise to the term "mother" for someone who engages in this activity — sometimes written with a hyphen (moth-er) to distinguish it from its usual meaning. This confusion does not arise in speech as it is pronounced differently (IPA: /ˈmɒθɚ/, not /ˈmʌðɚ/).
Economic significance of moths[edit | edit source]
Moths, and particularly their caterpillars, are a major agricultural pest in many parts of the world. The caterpillar of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) causes severe damage to forests in the northeast United States, where it is an invasive species. In temperate climates, the codling moth causes extensive damage, especially to fruit farms. In tropical and subtropical climates, the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is perhaps the most serious pest of brassicaceous crops.
Several moths in the family Tineidae are commonly regarded as pests because their larvae eat fabric such as clothes and blankets made from natural proteinaceous fibers such as wool or silk. They are less likely to eat mixed materials containing artificial fibers. There are some reports that they can be repelled by the scent of wood from juniper and cedar, by lavender, or by other natural oils. However, many consider this unlikely to prevent infestation. Naphthalene (the chemical used in mothballs) is considered more effective, but there are concerns over its effects on human health. Moth larvae may be killed by freezing the items which they infest for several days at a temperature below −8 °C (18 °F). 
Moths are sturdy and usually are more resistant to pesticides than are mosquitoes and flies.
Some moths are farmed. The most notable of these is the silkworm, the larva of the domesticated moth Bombyx mori. It is farmed for the silk with which it builds its cocoon. The silk industry produces over 130 million kilograms of raw silk, worth about 250 million U.S. dollars, each year. Not all silk is produced by Bombyx mori. There are several species of Saturniidae that are also farmed for their silk, such as the Ailanthus moth (Samia cynthia group of species), the Chinese Oak Silkmoth (Antheraea pernyi), the Assam Silkmoth (Antheraea assamensis), and the Japanese Silk Moth (Antheraea yamamai).
Despite being framed for eating clothing, most moth adults do not eat at all. Most like the Luna, Polyphemus, Atlas, Prometheus, Cercropia, and other large moths don't have mouths. When they do eat, moths will drink nectar. Only one species of moth eat wool [How to reference and link to summary or text]. The adults do not eat but the larvae will eat through wool clothing.
Attraction to light[edit | edit source]
Moths frequently appear to circle artificial lights. One hypothesis advanced to explain this behavior is that moths use a technique of celestial navigation called transverse orientation. By maintaining a constant angular relationship to a bright celestial light, such as the Moon, they can fly in a straight line. Celestial objects are so far away, that even after travelling great distances, the change in angle between the moth and the light source is negligible; further, the moon will always be in the upper part of the visual field or on the horizon. Human light sources have not existed long enough to affect the evolution of moth navigation systems. When a moth encounters a much closer artificial light and uses it for navigation, the angle changes noticeably after only a short distance, in addition to being often below the horizon. The moth instinctively attempts to correct by turning toward the light, causing airborne moths to come plummeting downwards, and - at close range - which results in a spiral flight path that gets closer and closer to the light source. 
In 1972, Henry Hsiao, now a professor of biomedical engineering, suggested that the reason for moths circling lights may have to do with a visual distortion called a Mach band . He says that they fly towards the darkest part of the sky in pursuit of safety and are thus inclined to circle ambient objects in the Mach band region. This hypothesis is not scientifically accepted and has never been confirmed.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Hsaio says that the celestial navigation theory should cause moths to circle lights, not to head directly toward them, as many are seen to do. He conjectures that moths, which are nocturnal creatures, must find a place to hide from predators when daylight comes, but cannot do so in darkness. Their instinct when morning comes is to fly toward the light (presumably up) and then down again, with some probability landing on a surface which matches their camouflage.
A theory which has been advanced in an attempt to explain the attraction male moths have for candles specifically is based on olfaction. There is evidence that olfaction might be, in some cases, mediated by detection of the infra-red spectra of substances . The spiky infrared spectra of a candle flame happens to contain a number of emission lines which coincide with the vibrational frequencies of the female moth's pheromone . The male moth is thereby powerfully attracted to the flame. Sources, eg. hurricane lamps, with different spike patterns are less powerful attractants.
Notable moths[edit | edit source]
- Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), the largest moth in the world
- White Witch moth (Thysania agrippina), the Lepidopteran with the biggest wingspan
- Madagascan Sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus), considered to be the most impressive and beautiful Lepidoptera
- Death's-head hawkmoth (Acherontia spp.), is associations with the supernatural and evil and was featured in art and movies
- Peppered moth (Biston betularia), the subject of a now well-known study in evolution.
- Luna moth (Actias luna)
- Emperor Gum moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti)
- Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)
Moths of economic significance:
- Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), a pest of hardwood trees in North America
- Corn earworm or cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa zea), a major agricultural pest
- Codling moth (Cydia pomonella), a pest mostly of apple, pear and walnut trees
- Light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana), a highly polyphagous pest
- Silkworm (Bombyx mori), for its silk
See also[edit | edit source]
Gallery[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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- Brower, L. P., Brower, J. V. Z., Stiles, F. G., Croze, H. J., & Hower, A. S. (1964). Mimicry: Differential advantage of color patterns in the natural environment: Science 144(Whole No 3615) 1964, 183-185.
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- Darwin, C. (1880). Insects, continued--Order Lepidoptera. New York, NY: D Appleton & Company.
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- El-Sayed, A. M. (2004). Behavioural effect of (E)-8,(Z)-10-dodecadien-1-OL and (E)-8,(E)-10-dodecadienyl acetate on the upwind orientation of male codling moth, Cydia pomonella to pheromone source: Behaviour Vol 141(3) Mar 2004, 313-325.
- El-Sayed, A. M., & Suckling, D. M. (2005). Behavioural observations of mating disruption in three lepidopteran pests: Behaviour Vol 142(6) Jun 2005, 717-729.
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- Fullard, J. H., & Napoleone, N. (2001). Diel flight periodicity and the evolution of auditory defenses in the Macrolepidoptera: Animal Behaviour Vol 62(2) Aug 2001, 349-368.
- Groot, A. T., Horovitz, J. L., Hamilton, J., Santangelo, R. G., Schal, C., Gould, F., et al. (2006). Experimental evidence for interspecific directional selection on moth pheromone communication: PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Vol 103(15) Apr 2006, 5858-5863.
- Grosse-Wilde, E., Svatos, A., & Krieger, J. (2006). A Pheromone-Binding Protein Mediates the Bombykol-lnduced Activation of a Pheromone Receptor In Vitro: Chemical Senses Vol 31(6) Jul 2006, 547-555.
- Himes, K. E. (2007). A study of the cellular changes associated with ganglionic migration and fusion during postembryonic development of the moth, manduca sexta. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering.
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- Jaffe, K., Miras, B., & Cabrera, A. (2007). Mate selection in the moth Neoleucinodes elegantalis: Evidence for a supernormal chemical stimulus in sexual attraction: Animal Behaviour Vol 73(4) Apr 2007, 727-734.
- Javois, J., & Tammaru, T. (2004). Reproductive decisions are sensitive to cues of life expectancy: The case of a moth: Animal Behaviour Vol 68(2) Aug 2004, 249-255.
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- Krieger, J., Raming, K., Dewer, Y. M. E., Bette, S., Conzelmann, S., & Breer, H. (2002). A divergent gene family encoding candidate olfactory receptors of the moth Heliothis virescens: European Journal of Neuroscience Vol 16(4) Aug 2002, 619-628.
- Lim, H., & Greenfield, M. D. (2007). Female pheromonal chorusing in an arctiid moth, Utetheisa ornatrix: Behavioral Ecology Vol 18(1) Jan-Feb 2007, 165-173.
- Lim, H., & Greenfield, M. D. (2008). Female arctiid moths, Utetheisa ornatrix, orient towards and join pheromonal choruses: Animal Behaviour Vol 75(2) Feb 2008, 673-680.
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- McNamara, K. B., Jones, T. M., & Elgar, M. A. (2007). No cost of male mating experience on female reproductive success in the almond moth, Cadra cautella (Lepidoptera; Pyralidae): Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Vol 61(8) Jun 2007, 1177-1184.
- Men, X., Ge, F., Yardim, E. N., & Parajulee, M. N. (2005). Behavioral Response of Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) to Cotton with and Without Expression of the CrylAc delta -Endotoxin Protein of Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner: Journal of Insect Behavior Vol 18(1) Jan 2005, 33-50.
- Merlin, C., Lucas, P., Rochat, D., Francois, M.-C., Maibeche-Coisne, M., & Jacquin-Joly, E. (2007). An antennal circadian clock and circadian rhythms in peripheral pheromone reception in the moth Spodoptera littoralis: Journal of Biological Rhythms Vol 22(6) Dec 2007, 502-514.
- Mesce, K. A. (2002). Metamodulation of the biogenic amines: Second-order modulation by steroid hormones and amine cocktails: Brain, Behavior and Evolution Vol 60(6) Dec 2002, 339-349.
- Mozuraitis, R., & Buda, V. (2006). Pheromone Release Behaviour in Females of Phyllonorycter junoniella (Z.) (Lepidoptera, Gracillariidae) Under Constant and Cycling Temperatures: Journal of Insect Behavior Vol 19(1) Jan 2006, 129-142.
- Nakagawa, T., Sakurai, T., Nishioka, T., & Touhara, K. (2005). Insect Sex-Pheromone Signals Mediated by Specific Combinations of Olfactory Receptors: Science Vol 307(5715) Mar 2005, 1638-1642.
- Olsson, P. O. C., Anderbrant, O., & Lofstedt, C. (2006). Experience influences oviposition behaviour in two pyralid moths, Ephestia cautella and Plodia interpunctella: Animal Behaviour Vol 72(3) Sep 2006, 545-551.
- Pezier, A., Acquistapace, A., Renou, M., Rospars, J.-P., & Lucas, P. (2007). Ca-super(2+) stabilizes the membrane potential of moth olfactory receptor neurons at rest and is essential for their fast repolarization: Chemical Senses Vol 32(4) May 2007, 305-317.
- Polimanti, O. (1914). Notes on the thele-perception of sex in silkworm moths: Journal of Animal Behavior Vol 4(4) Jul-Aug 1914, 289-292.
- Pszczolkowski, M. A., & Brown, J. J. (2005). Single experience learning of host fruit selection by lepidopteran larvae: Physiology & Behavior Vol 86(1-2) Sep 2005, 168-175.
- Raguso, R. A., & Willis, M. A. (2005). Synergy between visual and olfactory cues in nectar feeding by wild hawkmoths, Manduca sexta: Animal Behaviour Vol 69(2) Feb 2005, 407-418.
- Reisenman, C. E., Christensen, T. A., Francke, W., & Hildebrand, J. G. (2004). Enantioselectivity of Projection Neurons Innervating Identified Olfactory Glomeruli: Journal of Neuroscience Vol 24(11) Mar 2004, 2602-2611.
- Renou, M., Berthier, A., Desbarats, L., Van der Pers, J., & Guerrero, A. (1999). Actographic analysis of the effects of an esterase inhibitor on male moth responses to sex pheromone: Chemical Senses Vol 24(4) Aug 1999, 423-428.
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- Rossbach, A., Lohr, B., & Vidal, S. (2005). Generalism Versus Specialism: Responses of Diadegma mollipla (Holmgren) and Diadegma semiclausum (Hellen), to the Host Shift of the Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella L.) to Peas: Journal of Insect Behavior Vol 18(4) Jul 2005, 491-503.
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- Solari, P., Crnjar, R., Frongia, A., Sollai, G., Secci, F., Spiga, M., et al. (2007). Oxaspiropentane derivatives as effective sex pheromone analogues in the gypsy moth: Electrophysiological and behavioral evidence: Chemical Senses Vol 32(8) Oct 2007, 755-763.
- Soutar, A. R., & Fullard, J. H. (2004). Nocturnal anti-predator adaptations in eared and earless Nearctic Lepidoptera: Behavioral Ecology Vol 15(6) Nov 2004, 1016-1022.
- Stelinski, L. L., Gut, L. J., Vogel, K. J., & Miller, J. R. (2004). Behaviors of Naive vs. Pheromone-Exposed Leafroller Moths in Plumes From High-Dosage Pheromone Dispensers in a Sustained-Flight Wind Tunnel: Implications for Mating Disruption of These Species: Journal of Insect Behavior Vol 17(4) Jul 2004, 533-554.
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- Vickers, N. J. (2006). Inheritance of Olfactory Preferences I. Pheromone-Mediated Behavioral Responses of Heliothis subflexa x Heliothis virescens Hybrid Male Moths: Brain, Behavior and Evolution Vol 68(2) Jul 2006, 63-74.
- Vickers, N. J. (2006). Inheritance of Olfactory Preferences III. Processing of Pheromonal Signals in the Antennal Lobe of Heliothis subflexa x Heliothis virescens Hybrid Male Moths: Brain, Behavior and Evolution Vol 68(2) Jul 2006, 90-108.
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[edit | edit source]
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References[edit | edit source]
- Why are Moths Attracted to Flame? (audio) All Things Considered, August 18, 2007.
- Henry S. Hsiao, Attraction of moths to light and to infrared radiation. San Francisco Press (1972) ISBN 0-911302-21-2
- Wright, R. H., The Sense of Smell. CRC Press, London (1982)
- Callahan, P.S., Moth and candle, Applied Optics 12, 3089-3097
- Tait, Malcolm (2006-08-28). "1" Animal Tragic: Popular Misconceptions of Wildlife Through the Centuries, 38, Think Books. URL accessed 2008-02-19.
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