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Parasitic Moths

Certain moths are blood and body fluid suckers. They are small moths belonging to the family Epipyropidae . Described as parasitic moths, there are about 40 different species found in Asia, Africa and North America.

The moths are divided into three main groups:

  1. Blood or secretion sucking moths: The larvae of these moths feed upon the body fluids of insects like plant hoppers and cicadas. In Glouster, Ohio, occurs a tiny moth of the genus Fulgoraecia. Its larva sucks body fluids of plant hoppers.
  2. Eye frequenting moths: There are twenty different species of this group, found in Africa, Nepal, North America, South East Asia and India. They fly over cattle, elephants and sometimes humans and sit on the eyes. They have a sucking type of mouth parts by which they draw eye secretions. In Madagascar, a moth specializes in seeking the salt content of bird’s tears. The moth looks for sleeping birds. It sits on the eye of the bird and inserts its proboscis in between the eyelids. It draws out the liquid without disturbing the bird. Its proboscis is harpoon shaped and exclusively suited for this type of feeding.
  3. Skin piercing blood sucking moths: These moths occur in South East Asia, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The Asian Vampire moth, Calyptra eustrigata has piercing and sucking type of mouth parts. Like a mosquito, it is a blood sucker on a variety of mammals including humans. Calyptra labililis of Thailand sucks blood from Water buffalo, Samabar, Tapir, Zebra and Elephant.

The life history of parasitic moths is little known. One study on Epicrania species has shown that the egg takes 5 to 7 days to hatch. The larva has a small retractile head. Its thoracic legs have claws and abdominal, prochets which enable the larva to cling to flying or jumping insects. The larva after 11 to 15 days pupates by spinning a silky cocoon. In about a week’s time the adult moth emerges.

Parasitic moths have evolved into a separate group with features adapted to their special way of life.