The fun when science comes knocking at your door: a real Mothra

Mothra, science outdoors
Motha makes science outdoors fun.

I wish I was a field scientist sometimes so maybe after 20+ years I’d like to escape the lab at times to do science outdoors.

However, occasionally science comes to you, giving you a surprising, fun experience. Note that you may enjoy my Scientist in the Garden series.

That happened to me today. After walking my dog Elvis with my youngest daughter as I was unlocking my door I noticed something on the wall outside the door.

A giant, very unusual looking moth. This moth was about the size of a large butterfly or a human hand (see picture above) so I felt comfortable calling it Mothra. Anyone know more about this type of giant moth?

You might say, “Who is interested in a freaking moth?”

Well, Mothra is no ordinary moth. In addition to his enormous size, the largest moth I’ve seen in my life, Mothra has some other features that are very cool. You see Mothra has precisely the same collection of colors as the bark around the front of my house. If he wasn’t attached to the yellow stucco wall but rather was on the bark, he’d be invisible due to this amazing camouflage.  But why does he look like a collection of bark? I can only imagine that he is meant to blend into tree bark. Giant Moth

If we zoom in you can see Mothra even better (right). What a cool creature. What jumped right out at me is that not only is Mothra equipped with color camouflage, but also he has on his thorax a mimicry bonus: very intimidating fake eyes (aka eyespots). I’m referring to those dark triangular eye-like areas coupled with what almost looks like a nose in between and maybe a mouth. Birds would think twice before eating him with those big fake eyes. Even if predators do not see those eyespots as eyes, they are nonetheless some kind of warning or trick to diffuse predator interaction. Many moths employ eyespots to influence predators, however the fake eyes are almost always on the wings. Mothra has them on the thorax, which to my eye gives a face-like appearance.

Thus, Mothra has things nicely covered. Most of the time sitting on tree bark, birds and other possible predators can’t see him. If he ends up in a visible spot, those monster like eyespots (heck, a whole face if you see it like I do) might just discourage predators.

Thanks for the visit, Mothra, and a science lesson for my youngest daughter.

Anyone know what kind of moth this is?

Moths belong to an order of insects including butterflies called Lepidoptera. However, unlike butterflies, moths are generally nocturnal. Interestingly, almost all moths are strictly liquidtarians, only drinking liquids. However some moths have no mouths and don’t eat all, existing only to reproduce.

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