A Stirling Moth

Mention “moth” and most Japanese wince or flinch in disgust.

Moths are associated with poisonous or allergenic scales, or poisonous glands and stingers, or otherwise unsanitary conditions.

Ask a typical Japanese person to differentiate a moth from a butterfly, and most will say something along the lines of “a butterfly is pretty and a moth is ugly”, or “butterflies fly at night and moths fly during the day”.  I assume they are unaware that the silkworm is a kind of moth…


I wonder what they would make of this specimen, Pidorus glaucopis, known locally as hotaruga (蛍蛾), literally “firefly moth”.  It is so named because of its black body and red head, which is reminicent of the firefly.  Some believe this to be a form of evolutionary mimicry – bearing similar form and colouring to the firefly (which is capable of secreteing unpleasant alkaloids), not to mention that the white stripes on the wing could possibly be mistaken for a firefly’s light – although the hotaruga is largely daytime active, and apparently produces its own defensive alkaloids.


This moth appears in early summer and again in autumn, perhaps indicating a dual breeding cycle, or at the very least, a dual metamorphosis cycle or hatching cycle.


I have been unable to find out much more about this moth – apart from pictures of its larva and descriptions of its preferred diet, the field guids contained very little information.  Even less is available in English (note that it doesn’t even have an English common name).


But in the middle of a slump – being very busy while very little nature was making itself available, and very few ideas – this pretty little moth was a welcome find.

A hotaruga on a chayote leaf. Quite a pretty moth, isn’t it.

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