[Taxacom] Never a dull moment

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Tue Dec 23 06:46:21 CST 2014

Ghost moths are a pretty obscure subject of study, but it has its moments
as illustrated by the following press release at


A small brown moth has one of the most complex sex lives in the insect
world, new research has found.
The twilight courtship rituals of the gold swift moth (Phymatopus hecta)
can be seen in June and July in forest glades and bracken patches all over

Despite the insect’s unassuming appearance, a new study published in the
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society reports a variety and complexity
in its mating patterns and sexual positions worthy of an insect Kama Sutra.

Professor John Turner, Emeritus Professor in the University of Leeds’ School
of Biology <http://www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk/schools/sb/>, said: “With most
insects, you expect to find a fairly set mating process. In moths like
this, you might see the female staying still, emitting a scent and then
mating with the first male moth to arrive.

“The love life of the gold swift moth is a veritable Kama Sutra of mating
patterns and positions. Colleagues have commented that this is the most
elaborate mating procedure known in any insect and I have certainly not
observed anything to surpass it.”

Professor Turner identified an array of different courtship “dances”, with
some individuals able to switch to alternative methods if their first
gambits were frustrated:

• The female hangs from the foliage, emits a scent and mates with one of
the males that arrive. This is a classic moth mating pattern.
• The male hangs from foliage, the female flies to him and they mate.
• A group of males forms a hovering  swarm. Females fly past and males fly
out of the swarm to follow them. When the female lands by hanging under a
leaf, a male lands next to her and mates.
• A mutual courtship dance: a female flies up to a hovering male and they
“dance” in the air together.
• The male hangs from foliage and a female flies in and hangs some distance
away, fanning her wings to propel scent toward him. The male tends to show
no interest until the female flies over to “nudge” him. He then flies off
and returns to mate with her.
• The female flies at a hanging male, bumps into him, and lands a short
distance away. The male then flies over the female and hangs fluttering
next to her. Then the moths mate

More information about the Taxacom mailing list