Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what’s in a name?
– Helen Hunt Johnson
Mulling over at Lepidoptera and possible analogies with an army, I often think of butterflies as the glorified battle generals skipping about with their tantrums while the moths are the mute soldiers, toiling constantly in their shadow with minimal advertisements.
But then there are exceptions like the Coffee bean moth, an eclectic cross between moth, cicada and glasswinged butterfly. I was busy chasing a Common Windmill when this moth, acting a little sluggish, maybe because of the morning dew, paused on a shrub right in front of me. Resembling a bumblebee more than a moth, it imbibes many other unique features.
The caterpillar has an acquired taste, feasting on pomegranates or coffee wherever available, (which lends to one of the common names). Also known as the Pellucid hawk moth, it emerges from the cocoon with a stout body unlike typical moths. The most interesting feature, however, are the colourless wings, a trait which only a few species in Lepidoptera order can lay claim to. While seemingly inconspicuous, these wings have an intricate network of protuberances that act as anti-reflectants, and decrease the light reflectance by almost half across a broad range of light spectra, thus making the moth imperceptible to possible predators.
I chased the moth around for a bit, but then the (seemingly jealous) butterfly tufted closer, and off we went again skipping across the thorny undulations for that still frame.
Pellucid hawk moth/ Coffee Bean Moth (Cephonodes hylas), Thandapani, Karsog Valley, Himachal Pradesh
In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods.
An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster ‘inclusive’ growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.