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Why Moths?

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

I guess it is the way I see things. Often bigger, louder, brighter, fluffier, cuter things get attention, but they are right there, moths, lichens, moss, fungi, all sorts of insects, right under you, right next to you, right above you. We know all things are part of ecosystem. And there is beauty in all things. Not that I want to draw everything...

There's a saying in Japanese. 縁の下の力持ち、often translated as Unsung Heroes in English, but it really means Strength Under Structure. I have always related to this phrase since childhood. There are millions of things supporting our ecosystem of the Earth, but we don't think about them much. I just felt like shedding some light on these.. in a way I wouldn't mind hanging on the wall.

My original pencil drawing of tree branches covered in lichen and hide-and-seek moths. Lichens are colored in mild green with watercolour.

A little bit about moths

Both moths and butterflies are in the order Lepidoptera. There are about 160,000 species of moth. They are important pollinators and food to nocturnal animals.

So how do you tell moths and butterflies apart? *Please note there are exceptions.

Moths: Active at night

Fuzzy antennae

Makes cocoon

Often rests with wings lying down / flat

Butterflies: Active during the day

Smooth thin antennae with clubs at tip

Makes chrysalis

Often rests with wings standing up

A black and white moth on a white wall

Initially two things that fascinated me about moths. The first is their camouflage. I often see a moth resting on a trunk of a tree, almost completely camouflaged. This moth I found inside my house perhaps thought it was safe because the wall was white. Different moths have different style of camouflage, and these have developed through process of evolution. Camouflage itself is a big topic in itself, so I will leave it for another day, another research, but good examples are here:

The second thing I found fascinating was the theory of the reason why they fly to the artificial lights.

Why are moths attracted to lights?

According to the book, Moths: A Complete Guide To Biology and Behavior, by David Lees and Alberto Zilli, a moth adjusts its flying track by keeping the light source at a constant angle to the eye. In nature, it uses moon and/or starts to do this. Most flying animals tend to keep the lighter sky above them when flying. Artificial lights confuse moths and they dip down and spirals towards radiating light. Isn't the thought of these insects navigating via stars romantic?




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