NMW: Moth Fashion!

Who knew fur leg warmers could be so fashionable in the tropics?

National Moth Week continues with some bold fashion accessories demonstrating the amazing diversity of this group.

  The moth above is from Costa Rica.  I can only guess why it has evolved leg warmers - except that I severely doubt they are for warming legs.  Maybe they are for brushing away would be attackers, or dampening bat sonar?  They could be for putting the moves on a female, or they might work great for blending in on my dog (again very unlikely).  It's a mystery for now.  Any ideas?

Sphingidae, Costa Rica
Sphinx moths are pretty speedy on the wing - but this one looks fast just sitting still.  With the swept wings and the tail fin - it's hard to look at it without the 'Top Gun' theme song popping into your head.

Adult moths aren't the only ones with intense ornamentation, caterpillars are often just as striking as their adult counterparts.  The Costa Rican Saturniid below is covered in spines that may make it difficult for a parasitoid fly or wasp to land and lay an egg.  At the same time bright colors advertise to larger predators that the spines are capable of delivering a painful sting.

The Delaware native paddle caterpillar below also employs it's adornments for defense against parasitoids.  When touched, the caterpillar thrashes its head from side to side, sending the 'paddles' flailing wildly - a formidable challenge for a small wasp.  Instead of stinging, the caterpillar (larva of the funerary dagger moth) hides out during the day doing its best impression of bird poop.

Acronicta funeralis

Our last fashion victim is horned spanworm or filament bearer.  The tentacles may help disguise the caterpillar as a dead leaf, but then bothered, they expend to twice their normal length.  It is one of the most bizarre caterpillars I have yet to encounter:
Nematocampa resistaria, Delaware


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