There are four stages to a moth’s life. There’s the egg stage, the caterpillar stage, the cocooned pupal stage and eventually the winged adult. For moths that are born without a mouth, that long journey comes to a quick end. On average, these adults live for about week -- just long enough to mate.
Scientists aren’t sure why nature designed certain types of moth without a mouth. However, what they lack in anatomy, they make up for in looks. Luna moths are beautiful moths with light green wings and a long tail. They have a wingspan of approximately 5 inches, making them one of the largest moths in North America. Like most moths, they’re nocturnal, and Luna moths get their name from the moon. Females deposit eggs that hatch in approximately seven days. Caterpillars will grow for three to four weeks, feeding on leaves from trees such as walnut, sweet gum and birch.
Moths born without a mouth can't eat, so they make up for it during their caterpillar stage. As caterpillars, they not only need the nutrients to survive hibernation, but to also sustain their short adult lives. When rosy maple moths are caterpillars they feed on maple and oak trees. In large numbers, they are considered a nuisance due to the foliage they damage. As adults, they’re an average-sized moth with a bright pink wingspan of around 1 to 2 inches. After mating in the evening, females deposit eggs the next day.
Nature didn’t give Polyphemus moths a mouth, but it did give them prominent eye spots on their hind wings to deter predators. They get their name from a cyclops of Greek mythology. They’re a large moth with a wingspan up to 6 inches. They’re typically found in forests, but have been seen in marshes. Found from Canada to Mexico, these moths have one of the widest distributions of silk moths. They're extremely attracted to light, and there has been concern that man-made sources such as street lights will deter them from mating.
Atlas and Prometheus
Other moths born without a mouth are Atlas and Prometheus moths. Atlas moths are found in southeast Asia, and they are one of the largest moth’s in the world with a wingspan up to 9 inches. Their cocoons are made of a strong brownish silk, and they’ve been used as amulets in Africa as well as made into small purses in Taiwan. Prometheus silk-moths can be found from the eastern United States to the plains. Their broad diet includes sassafras, tulip trees and lilacs.
- Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images