Macrocilix maia, a moth that evolved to look like flies eating glistening bird shit

Macrocilix maia is a moth with a most unusual camouflage: it looks like two flies enjoying a delicious supper of fresh bird shit. Is this merely some amusing human poop-pareidolia, or did Macrocilix truly evolve an appearance that made avian predators think it was a poisoned meal? There is "scant research," writes research scientist Alex Wild.

The scant published research on the mural moth is systematic in nature, with nary a mention of the incredible mimicry. In fact, the photo-sharing site Flickr has outpaced any academic work: photographer Allan Lee reports in 2009 that the moth reinforces the imagery with a pungent odor. That’s the extent of our knowledge. Macrocilix maia is a Ph.D. project waiting to happen.

Wild was writing in 2011. Has anything interesting been learned of Macrocilix since? Google Scholar suggests only fleeting references in papers and a book, saying nothing more than Wild's summary. There are many splendid specimens on Flickr, all with nearly-identical caco-camo.

Photo: Alexey Yakovlev/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0) Read the rest

Why are moths drawn to lamps?

According to the explanation of the phrase "like a moth to the flame" at The Phrase Finder, "the word moth was used the the 17th century to mean someone who was apt to be tempted by something that would lead to their downfall." But why do moths have this fatal attraction anyway? National Geographic explains in the above video:

The theory is that these primarily nocturnal insects have evolved to travel by the light of the moon and stars. This way of travel is called transverse orientation. An easy way to think about transverse orientation is to imagine a sailor travelling in the direction of the North Star. In theory, moths similarly follow the light source at a precise position and a precise angle to their bodies. This is how moths would navigate for millions of years … by the light of the moon. What moth evolution couldn’t account for was the proliferation of constant electric light in our modern world. When Thomas Edison patented the lightbulb on January 27, 1880 it was a bad day in moth history. These lightbulbs began to act as artificial moons, confusing moths and overwhelming their senses. Since moths are accustomed to orienting to distant light sources, they can be easily disoriented when a closer light source, like a porch lamp, comes into view.

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Scientist finds shimmering blue moths last seen in 1887

A Polish entomologist has observed and recorded footage of a bee-like moth called the Oriental blue clearwing. Read the rest

Videos show marvelous caterpillar diversity

Why does The Caterpillar Lab only have 44 subscribers? Caterpillars set to smooth jazz, like these gorgeous stinging rose caterpillars checking each other out, make this New Hampshire nonprofit a hidden gem. Read the rest

Procedurally-generated moths are wonderfully haunting, plausible

Straddling the odd line between science and nature, this amazing new procedural generator pays striking tribute to the dusty, incandescent bodies of moths.

Exotic caterpillars and the beautiful winged insects they become

Imgur user believeitornotimnothome curated this lovely collection of 19 caterpillars and the beautiful winged insects they become, like this Blue Morpho. Bonus video below: Read the rest