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Thanks Folks, I'll Be Here All Night

Moths are funny creatures. By funny I don’t mean interesting, I mean hilarious.

Moths, as we all know, are of the order Lepidoptera. They comprise all the insects in this order, except for the butterflies, who are also of the order. Yes. No. To be serious for a second, there are a lot more kinds of moths than butterflies.

To make a similar joke to that above, while all the butterflies comprise a monophyletic group, the moths do not, except for some of them. The some that do not are not monophyletic, of course.

How do you tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly? Butterflies have balls at the ends of their antennae. Moths are hairy and ball-less on theirs.

We’ve all seen moths from sunset to morning circle the porch light. We should say that moths use the moon to fly a straight line. Just keep the moon to your right angle, moths, and you’ll go far. Hard to keep a porch light angled in this way—too close—so up and down and around we go.

Moth balls are most effective, which is pretty funny, right? You can try to use lavender, cedar, or juniper, but these are not as effective, and not as funny. The naphthalene of moth balls is detected in your average interstellar medium, just head toward Cernis 52.

Some people eat moth larvae as an important food. It’s true. Although we don’t know whether it’s of forensic importance, A. cuprina—the grease moth by another name—was once found feeding on the greasy remains of a dead man (no, it was a baby). Also true.

White witch moth, death’s-head hawkmoth, those are good ones. Ornate moth females mate with three or four males, who give her their “nuptial gifts” (sperm). Look this one up—that’s really the term. Good one.

Light pollution is disrupting moth reproduction in some parts of the world, which is causing precipitous declines in their populations. You are getting much less moth ass, moth-erfuckers. Too soon?

Korn earworm moth (a major agricultural pest). Write your own joke.

I forgot to mention that ornate moth caterpillars resort to cannibalism. The caterpillar eats plants with, like, high levels of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which is then toxic to the things that might try to eat it. It’s a pretty scarce resource though, that toxin, so one caterpillar without enough of it will go on and eat her brother or mom. PAs, amiright?

The atlas moth is the biggest moth in the world. Well that makes sense, but you do know the moths didn’t name themselves that.

Tiger moths emit clicks to foil a bat’s echolocation. Hold it down up there.

Moths are extremely important pollinators of many kinds of plants. What with honeybees as they are, we should be very glad to have them. I’m not trying to be funny with this one. Read the room.

{If you like what you read}

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