Vampire Moths: Repurposing Design

Have you ever "hacked" something for a purpose other than its original purpose? Sure you have, such as scrubbing with an old toothbrush. In medications, there are "off label" uses (antihistamine as a sleep aid, for instance). Life hacks seem to happen in nature.

In a strange kind of life hack, vampire moths are rogue in their genus. You may be shocked to learn what this moth was designed to feast on.
Calyptra thalictri (vampire moth) image credit: Flickr / Ilia Ustyantsev (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Before we get to the vampire moth (and no, if you're bitten, you won't turn into an undead one and seek the blood of the living), let's have a bit of fun.

Spy movies show the heroes using objects in ways other than intended as weapons or to get out of unpleasant situations. The original MacGyver television series became iconic because of how he jury-rigged devices, often for one quick purpose (bricolage). If y'all pay attention, you should come across the usage of "Macgyvered" as a substitute for improvising and jury-rigging.

I'm a fan of Stargate SG-1 and the original MacGyver (both starring Richard Dean Anderson), and Captain Carter (Amanda Tapping) made a remark to Anderson's character in the first Stargate SG-1 episode that they had to MacGyver a system. Naturally, I thought that subtle inside joke was downright hilarious.

Then there's this cut-up moment on the set:

Okay, just a few things extra before we get serious. 

Some life hacks seem very useful, but others strike me a stupid or even harmful. Use your discretion.

  • Pool noodles are those long, brightly-colored tubes used for playing in the water. People have used them to redirect water from a small sink into a bucket, or attack to garage walls so car doors are protected.
  • Plastic bread wrapper ties can be used if you use a fine-point marker, write a little identifier, and attach them to cords or cables.
  • Paper coffee filters have many uses, including a way to spread oil or butter in a dish, use two in a bowl to separate different snacks, spray windows with the usual cleaner, then wipe with a the filter.
  • Baking soda has been used for centuries, but people have used it for off-label purposes. It can be used as an iffy, temporary antacid, in dental hygiene, and a box of it in the 'fridge helps reduce odors. Putting some in a coffee filter and tying it together can be used to deodorize shoes and the dirty clothes section of your luggage.
  • Blue jeans are handy to wipe your hands on when nobody cares.
  • Eyeglass and pencil cases are useful for storing cables, adaptors, and such.
  • Here are some more for your consideration. You'll thank me later.
Biblical creationists believe that everything was originally created to be vegetarian (Gen 1:29-30). People may look at things and think, "Wow, look at those big, nasty, pointy teeth!", then assume carnivory. Consider the teeth on the giant panda or a fruit bat, for starters, since meat is not preferred for their dancing and dining pleasure.

Also, many living things were modified after the Fall of Man (a subject that was touched on in the ostrich post). Some critters forsook their first loves and decided that meat was mighty tasty, probably motivated by a lack of their normal food sources. This is what seemed to happen with some lorikeets.

Now we come to the vampire moth. Some in the genus Calyptra have gone off-label with their existing parts and became fond of blood. (Don't get me started on the somewhat misnamed blood pudding...) They were mainly found in the Ural Mountains of Russia, Malaysia, and southern Europe, but seem to be expanding their range. Call me when they reach Transylvania.

As mentioned before, not all in this moth's tribe are fond of blood. Under very close examination, the vampire version and its fruit-drinking cousins have the same parts. One repurposed those for something else.
Like a tiny flying Dracula, this moth creeps up on its sleeping prey and drills into its skin with a ferocious tooth- and claw-covered proboscis. Inflatable hooks on the tip of the feeding tube firmly anchor it to the skin while it feasts on the prey’s blood.

Was the vampire moth designed to be a blood-feeder? . . . The teeth rip away at blood vessels, causing a pool of blood to form under the skin for the moth to drink.

Vampire moths feed on humans, zebu, cattle, rhinoceros, and even elephants. These moths seem purposely built with all the tools they need to drink blood, right? Well, the truth may surprise you.

To bite into the full article (which is shorter than my wordy but fun introduction), fly over to "Rogue Moths Didn't Start Out That Way".