Last week I received a phone call from someone in a remote region of Kumaon, Uttarakhand asking me for information about a moth that he had seen. We had a short discussion about the moth that was probably the Atlas moth. The reason the conversation left me happy was that there are so few people interested in moths. Many people believe that moths are active only at night, are difficult to observe and are dull-coloured — nothing could be further from the truth. Some moths fly during the day and many moths are really colourful.
A few months ago, I proposed an article on moths to a nature magazine called Srishti. I told them that I would do a photo-feature on moths with minimal text. I picked 20 colourful moths, and the magazine was nice enough to print them in a size that was larger than life. The stunning photo-feature was published last month, and many people told me they were surprised that moths could be so colourful.
The Western Ghats has its pick of really pretty moths. Last year I assisted my son Yash in a moth survey in Kerala. One of the places we visited was the quaint hill station of Ponmudi, which is 55 kilometres from Trivandrum at an altitude of 1,100 metres. At Ponmudi, we stayed at a reasonably priced tourist rest house. We set up our moth screen in the rest house verandah outside our room. The nicest moths we spotted were the ones that came because of the lights in the rest house.
One night as we walked into our room at the rest house, just outside our door we spotted two really pretty nocturnal moths. They were really colourful in brown, green and yellow. The two (Eudocima salaminia and Eudocima homaena) were fruit-piercing moths.
The fruit-piercing moth has a powerful proboscis, which is a tube-like mouthpart. The proboscis has sharp pointed spines, which allow the moths to penetrate and feed on raw fruit. After the moth has fed on the fruit, the hole it has created becomes an entry point for numerous other creatures such as wasps, fungi and other micro-organisms. No fruit is left untouched by these moths; they like papaya, guava, mango, citrus, fig, tomato amongst many others.
Once the fruit is fed on by moths and attacked by other creatures, it normally rots and falls to the ground. As I am not a fruit farmer, I can shrug my shoulders and say, “So what if the moths feed on a few fruit?”
Want to see the lovely fruit piercers at your home? Plant fruit trees in your garden and hope for the moths to appear. If they do, prepare to sacrifice the fruit for the moths!
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