Moths (gamu-gamo, mariposa)

emerald moth Agathia liloc tanay rizal philippines
Emerald Moth species found at Liloc Farm

Leave a light on outside and soon you’ll have moths, the butterflies of the night, fluttering all around it. “Gamu-gamo” as the little ones are called, “mariposa” for the big ones. Sometimes drab, sometimes beautiful, sometimes with the most interesting markings.

Besides being active at night (nocturnal), you can tell a moth from a butterfly because they have thick or hairy bodies and don’t hold their wings together and straight up like butterflies often do. There antennae are often different as well. But moths are a very large and diverse group so there are many exceptions.

owl moth Erebus nyctaculis liloc tanay rizal philippines
Owl Moth species (Erebus macrops) found at Lilok Farm

Just like butterflies, moths begin their lives as caterpillars (“higad” or “simutsang”). Caterpillars are a larval stage that is meant to do one thing: eat! They eat and and eat and eat until they grow large enough to have all the energy needed to form an adult moth.

Oleander Hawkmoth Daphnis nerii Paolo Co in Manila larvae
Oleander Hawkmoth caterpillar, or “higad” (© Paolo Co)

From early in its life the caterpillar begins forming the organs and structures it needs for life as a moth. If you dissected a caterpillar, you would find the beginnings of legs and wings inside of its own body. But when it is ready for the full transformation, it will find a place to hide, stop moving, and slowly harden into a pupa (tilas).

Oleander Hawkmoth Daphnis nerii pupae cocoon from pune Sindhu Ramchandran
Oleander Hawkmoth pupa, or “tilas” (Sindhu Ramchandran / CC BY-SA)

Inside that protective covering the pupa is transforming into an adult moth. In warm regions it might happen within a month, but in cold regions the moth will often wait all the way until the next year to emerge.

The adult moth that comes out of the pupa is so different from the larva that created it you might think they were different animals. Sometimes they keep some of their old traits though. Do you see any family resemblance between the Oleander Hawkmoth caterpillar above and the adult moth that it will become below?

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