Vampire Moths

When the word vampirism is mentioned it conger’s up thoughts of Mosquitos, Bats, Mites or even The vampire finch of the Galapagos Islands, not many people think of a humble moth. Yes there are indeed moths that have evolved to feed on blood from vertebrates, even humans.

The Genus Calyptra contains 17 species. It is within the subfamily Calpinae of the family Erebidae, of these species 8 have been reported to feed on blood (including humans) in both the wild, with two species Calyptra fletcheri and C. thalictri, both shown to draw human blood within laboratory settings.

All these species of moth can be found in the ‘Old World’ so Asia, Africa and Europe, with only one species found in the North America, Calyptra Canadensis, and has not been recorded displaying vampirism.



Unlike many blood sucking species it is only the male moth that drinks blood, this it thought to be for the salt content to aid the production of sperm. Calyptra pierces the skin of animals by using its proboscis. This is done by the moth ‘rocking’ on its head to push its proboscis further into the skin, once through and the blood of the animal is welling up the moth opens the two hooks on the side of the proboscis the anchor it in the animals during feeding. It then repeat this anchoring & drilling behaviour using a ‘antiparallel’ movement. It is unknown if being fed on by a Calyptra will have detrimental effects.

All of this family of moths feed normally on fruit by piercing the skin to digest the juices, and it seems that drinking blood in these animals is facultative, and not obligated. So if worried of vampire moth attack, bring some strawberries, and be prepared for a brisk walk in the opposite direction.

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A Behavioral entomologist. I love the little things that are often overlooked.

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