Beware of Moths

March 27, 2014 — 12 Comments

mothI try not to hate moths. They’re obviously not so pretty as butterflies, but I remind myself that’s not their fault. They’re a nuisance around the porch lights on summer evenings, but that’s instinct, not choice.

I strive to see the best in moths, like C.S. Lewis, who was able to capitalize on their impulsiveness in his 1933 poem, “The Naked Seed.”

Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep

      Nor slumber, who didst take

All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep

      Watch for me till I wake.

If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou

      Desire for me what I

Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now

      Deep-buried, will not die,

—No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows

      Through winter ripe for birth

Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws

      Sweet influence still on earth,

—Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes

      Still turning round the earth.

I really want to give moths the benefit of the doubt . . . but that’s become virtually impossible since I learned some of them are vampiric!

Before we consider their blood-sucking rituals, I want to share a traumatic moth encounter my wife and I experienced several years ago when we lived in Eastern Washington.

We had a huge fragrant collection of plants that ran across nearly the whole of the front of our house. There was a bush at the far end, and some delightful quail nested there. The flowers brought us other welcome guests. Hummingbirds would crowd around them as sun was setting, and savor their nectars.

We loved watching them hover near the blooms, and wondered precisely what species of hummingbirds they were, since they were slightly smaller than the ones we were accustomed to.

One day I was getting a close up view of their activity and I saw something that shattered my sense of reality. Instead of a beak, these hummingbirds had tongues that curled and uncurled, not unlike those “party horns” that children blow at celebrations.

My wife said I had to be imagining what I’d seen. I assured her that I hadn’t seen anything like this in the scifi shows I regularly watched, and I was pretty sure that these abominations weren’t hummingbirds.

Eventually I persuaded her to look for herself, and she too was aghast at the question of what they might be. Some of you already know, because you’ve had the misfortune of growing up where these creepy things thrive. For the rest of you—the fortunate ones who’ve been spared the curse of hemaris sphinx moths—let me assure you, their maladapted proboscises are grotesque.

I thought they were the worst thing the world of the moths had to offer. (Well, aside from the 1961 Japanese film “Mothra.”)

That’s what I thought, until recently, when I learned that some misbegotten moths had followed mosquitoes in their descent into parasitical evil by drinking the blood of other creatures.

The calyptra moths are another proof of the fall. No longer do they flutter around from plant to plant, seeking sustenance as a proper herbivore. The aptly named “vampire moth” has chosen to adapt its proboscis to pierce the skin of other animals such as buffaloes . . . and human beings.

In the equal opportunity world of the corruption of the natural order, while female mosquitoes drink blood, it is male moths that do so. Apparently, they’ve already infested Malaysia, the Urals and Southern Europe. Now they are adjusting to the climate of Scandinavia. The question arises, where can be we safe from these monsters?

Returning to C.S. Lewis, he records an incident that occurred in Narnia involving mistaken identity.

It is a very funny thing that the sleepier you are, the longer you take about getting to bed; especially if you are lucky enough to have a fire in your room. Jill felt she couldn’t even start undressing unless she sat down in front of the fire for a bit first. And once she had sat down, she didn’t want to get up again. She had already said to herself about five times, “I must go to bed,” when she was startled by a tap on the window.

She got up, pulled the curtain, and at first saw nothing but darkness. Then she jumped and started backward, for something very large had dashed itself against the window, giving a sharp tap on the glass as it did so. A very unpleasant idea came into her head—“Suppose they have giant moths in this country! Ugh!”

But then the thing came back, and this time she was almost sure she saw a beak, and that the beak had made the tapping noise. “It’s some huge bird,” thought Jill. “Could it be an eagle?” She didn’t very much want a visit even from an eagle, but she opened the window and looked out. Instantly, with a great whirring noise, the creature alighted on the window-sill and stood there filling up the whole window, so that Jill had to step back to make room for it. It was the Owl. (The Silver Chair).

Fortunately for Jill, and the rest of the children who visited Narnia, there is no record of them ever encountering giant moths . . . vampire moths . . . or moths deceptively impersonating hummingbirds.

_____

Note: The monster moth pictured above is not (to my knowledge) a blood or flesh eater. But I still wouldn’t want one that size landing on my shoulder.

12 responses to Beware of Moths

  1. 

    Creepy moths! While there many examples of mythical creatures, the real ones are just as strange.

    • 

      That’s true. Nature includes many things that stretch beyond the bounds of human “creativity.” Most of what we conjure up is mimicry, in a sense… variations on preexisting themes.

  2. 

    What a great read! Our science studies have included some of the most bizarre creations God made. These are some of them. Totally laughed at the Mothra reference.

    • 

      As I responded to the comment above, human beings are “creative” in terms of their imaginations… as one blessing of being created in the Lord’s image. Our works of “subcreation” (as expressed by J.R.R. Tolkien) are mere echoes of God’s creatio ex nihilo.

  3. 

    I would argue that the blood sucking aspect is not the corruption, bu the design. The diseases and other such problems that are spread are due to the fall.

  4. 

    I love the big moths, and I grow Moon Flowers simply for the joy of seeing sphinx moths drinking from them. ;) I think moths are cute. I had not heard, however, of blood-sucking ones. I can’t say I’d be a fan of them.
    Most things that other people find creepy, I find beautiful or even adorable. Snakes, spiders, bats… On the other hand, I am terrified of camel crickets and not very fond of chimpanzees or dolphins.

    • 

      “Most things that other people find creepy, I find beautiful or even adorable.”

      Hmmm… not sure I’d admit this. ;)

      • 

        Nah, I admit it with pride. ;) Though, perhaps I should specify “creatures” rather than just “things.” Appreciating little-appreciated aspects of God’s creation is, I think, no bad thing.

        Arachnophobics, do not click the following link, but this is so cute!

  5. 

    Vampire moths–what next? Here’s hoping they don’t transmit rabies!

    • 

      I should add that owls can be pretty darn scary, too! I used to volunteer at a nature center and when someone was sick I had to feed the raptors. The eagles were not the scariest things there–it was a wise-looking owl that glared at me, clacked its beak and then launched itself straight at me with claws out and beak open. I got out of there fast!

    • 

      Or West Nile Virus.

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