And Skin Piercing Moths

The only lepidopterans known to be capable of piercing animal skin are members of the noctuid genus Ca-lyptra in Southeast Asia. Like many geometrids and other zoophilous moths, they tend to be attracted to wounds, open sores, cuts, scratches, scabs, and other skin lesions (Figs. 18.20, 18.21). However, while these other moths imbibe only exposed wound fluids, Calyptra spp. are capable of piercing the underlying tissue to draw fresh blood. Only the males are hematophagous. Females are believed to feed almost exclusively on fruits and are able to pierce the outer layers of ripening fruit to reach the


This is a relatively small family with 70 described genera worldwide. Only a few species in the genera Chaeopsestis and Neotogaria in Thailand and China are known to be zoophilous. They tend to be avid tear drinkers on zebu, horses, and mules, although they also feed on wounds. Chaeopsestis ludovicae is the only thyatirid known to feed onhumans (Fig. 18.20). Ithas been observed licking perspiration on human skin and clothes, in addition to imbibing nasal mucus and saliva of human hosts. This moth is an aggressive feeder and can cause considerable pain due to irritation of the conjunctiva and inner surface of the eyelid with its tarsal claws. The discomfort has been likened to a grain of sand being rubbed between the eye and eyelid. Adding to the annoyance is its persistence in fluttering about the eyes and repeated attempts to feed even when the eyelids are tightly closed.

FIGURE 18.21 Two wound-feeding moths, Hypochwsis pyrrhophasata, and Zythos sp. (Geometridae), feeding at site of host injury. (Photo by Hans Banziger.)

FIGURE 18.22 Hypochrosis hyadct-ria (Geometriciae) feeding at open wound of zebu. {Photo by Hans Bänziger.)

FIGURE 18.23 Skin-piercing moth, Calyptra parva (Noctuidae), feeding on human. (Photo by Hans Banziger.)

whereas the amount of pain is believed to depend on the number of pain receptors which are hit by the piercing stylets. Other associated reactions include localized swelling which may persist for several hours, slight numbness or itching, pressure sensitivity at the bite site, and mild induration the following day.

For further details on the biology and behavior of lachryphagous, wound-feeding and skin-piercing moths, see the references by Banziger.

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