Moth Creates Unique Chemical Weapons for Each Predator

Nature never ceases to amaze. Here are moths that have the ability to create the right chemical weapon to defend itself against specific predator. Almost like a fast order restaurant, serving orders that are needed at the moment.

Wood Tiger Moth is Ready for a Fight

As the old saying goes, people ought to never show up at a gunfight with a knife, or even try to attack a bird with a roach repellant. Maybe the wood tiger moth sees it that way too. Maybe other kinds of animals are fortunate to have the capability of making just one weapon or poison. But this little guy happens to be the first known species that will to make two unique chemical weapons that targets different predators.

This moth is scientifically known as Arctia plantaginis and resides in the Northern Hemisphere. It has wings that are very bright with bold patterns. One common a tactic used by many animals to ward off predators is to be poisonous and bad-tasting.

If predators do attack, this wood tiger moth might ooze out liquids coming from two different parts of his body. It will secrete fluid from its abdomen “in response to subtle disturbances,” says Bibiana Rojas who comes from the University of Jyväskylä located in Finland. Or this moth could leak what is called “neck fluids” whenever it is experiencing squeezing on its head.

Moth Fluids Were Tested

In order to examine the differences between the two moth goops, the scientists have bred several wood tiger moths inside the lab. While there, these insects enjoyed consuming dandelion leaves, while not having to contend with the dangers of predators. However, the researchers did squeeze the necks of the moths or abdomens in order to get them to release a portion of these defenseless liquids. They then proceeded to test the effects of these liquids on other animals.

They first tested it on birds. The scientists fed those oats that had been soaked in these different moth fluids. Then they observed at how rapidly these hungry birds gobbled up the oats.

Then they tested the moth fluids on ants. The study researchers trekked in the Finland woods and located ant colonies and inserted little discs right in the center of popular ant trails, where ants would be forced to go over them. The discs contained drops of the various liquids.

It was discovered that birds were not interested in moth neck fluids. They slowly approached oats that contained this particular liquid, and were slow to eat them. However, when oats had been mixed with the abdominal fluids, the birds were not bothered by them.

But with the ants, researchers observed a reluctance to drink the abdominal fluid from the moths. Yet they did not seem to mind the moth’s neck fluids at all. In fact, they appeared to like it very well.

When the labs conducted a chemical analysis on the two moth liquids, it was confirmed that they were indeed different. The scientists are saying that this is the very first evidence of a species who can produce two unique defensive chemicals in order to ward off different kinds of predators.

Scientists are still unaware of exactly how wood tiger moths create these two fluids. It has to be very costly for any insect to create not only one, but two unique defensive chemicals. However for this little guy, it is apparently well worth it when it provides the proper weapon as needed.