A "light" question on moths

mike Griggs mhg3 at cornell.edu
Sat Sep 11 07:58:44 EST 1993


Subject: A "light" question on moths
From: Tom Poliquin, poliquin at netcom.com
Date: Sat, 11 Sep 1993 05:06:42 GMT
In article <poliquinCD6BJ7.Dnp at netcom.com> Tom Poliquin,
poliquin at netcom.com writes:
>
>Somehow around the office today the subject of moths came up. Two
>individuals both recounted how their mothers had told them
>that the powder on moths wings was toxic.. (actually my mother told
>me it was pixie dust) Is this true?.... the toxic part I mean.
>
>Also 60% of the people were in agreement that if the dust is removed
>(I assume by some non-lethal means) that the moth would no longer be
>able to fly. The only rational explanation I could think of is that
>removal of the powder allowed moisture to permeate the wings increasing
>their density......
>
>Any actual facts would be greatly appreciated ... It should be obvious
>by now that we don't have any.
>
>Thanks .... 
>
>Tom
>
>---------------------------------------------------------------------
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>Tom Poliquin                        "... its only the moment that
lasts"  -
>Dedicated Systems                                                      
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>Internet: poliquin at netcom.com                                          
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I don't think that the scales that come from a moth or butterflies wing
are toxic.  These tiny feather-like/scales  are attached to the wing
somewhat like shingles on a roof but vary from group to group.

I do know that these can come off a struggling insect to produce a very
fine dust like that from a powdered donut and if inhaled can make a
person sneeze or cough.   Insect( and mite) proteins are now thought to
cause allergic reactions for example cockroach dust and skin or dander
mites.  

The scales on the moth/butterflies (Lepidopteran) wing usually have  the
functions of coloration, and modification of the surface for flight.  I
often see badly damaged butterflies weakly flying and moths with a
majority of there scales removed can still fly.  Only if the removal of
these scales reaches the point of damaging the aerodynamic surface will
this stop flight.  Remember grasshoppers, beetles, dragonflies have very
similar wings without scales and can still fly.

I'll be able to tell you more in six moths to one year after  I complete
an upcoming study where we will be observing the flight of teathered
insects to determine behaivioral changes to flight in fungus infected
insects for a model on insect pathogenic fungal dispersal mechanisms.
Hope this helps!



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