A moth that squeaks

January 17, 2013 • 8:22 am

Today is shaping up as Animal Post Day.

Very few moths make any sound at all. This one, Acherontia atropos (the “death’s head hawk moth), squeaks.  That makes it endearing, no?

The Wikipedia article on the species (link above) says this:

The moth also has numerous other unusual features. It has the ability to emit a loud squeak if irritated. The sound is produced by expelling air from its proboscis. It often accompanies this sound with flashing its brightly marked abdomen in a further attempt to deter its predators [JAC: notice that, too, in the video above]. It is commonly observed raiding beehives for honey at night. Unlike the other species of Acherontia, it only attacks colonies of the well-known Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. It is attacked by guard bees at the entrance, but the thick cuticle and resistance to venom allow it to enter the hive. It is able to move about in hives unmolested because it mimics the scent of the bees.

The British entomological journal Atropos takes its name from this species.

h/t: Bug Girl via Matthew Cobb

17 thoughts on “A moth that squeaks

    1. Just checking this discussion thread to make sure that someone referenced “The Silence of the Lambs.” Well done. Carry on.

    2. “Silence” was the first thing that I thought of too, from the name. But the moths depicted in the film were smaller, IIRC? (I don’t have a copy of the film ; I think that I’ve got the book somewhere, but I’m not sure that it was even a plot element in the book.)

  1. Considering how moths are attracted to light, that one is big enough to unscrew the bulb and fly off with it! Oh, wait, he has his own lightbulb…

    I turned the volume up and watched as my 2 kittehs alerted, then hunted for the squeaky toy.

    1. That question occurred to me, too. It seems curiously reluctant to fly.

      But it’s a beautiful big moth!

    2. Errrr, because flying is expensive (energetically) and it has learned that the human-like things are annoying but not actively dangerous.

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