You’ve probably never heard of the Venezuelan poodle moth, but you’ve likely seen a picture of two of these one-of-a-kind insects online over the past couple of years! Here, we’ve gathered some of the most interesting facts on these unique moths, plus some info on some other “strange” moth species!
Table of Contents
1. The Venezuelan poodle moth has a unique look!
Some people even think that these moths look almost fairy-like! They have a body that appears to be very fluffy (which is where they got the poodle part of their name). This fluffy “fuzz” is white. They also have large, bulging, black eyes and long brown antennae.
2. The Venezuelan poodle moth was discovered in 2009
Dr. Anker, who is a zoologist native to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, discovered the moth in the Gran Sabana region of Venezuela. While Dr. Anker was in Gran Sabana National Park, he took 75 photographs of the insect, which he then posted on Flicker. These pictures then went viral on the internet in 2012, which helped the moth gain popularity.
3. The name
Their name comes from the fact that these insects look like a combination between a fluffy white poodle and an average moth. Obviously, they are not related at all to poodles, but they are a member of the moth family. All moths are insects and there are thought to be about 160,000 different species of moths all over the world, many of which have yet to be discovered.
4. The Venezuelan poodle moth belongs to the scientific family Lasiocampidae
This family of moths contains over 2,000 different species and they are sometimes known as snout moths or lappet moths. All moths in this family are large and have broad wings compared to their body size. In this family, scientists believe that the Venezuelan poodle moth belongs to the Artace genus.
5. Are they a hoax?
Some people do not believe that the Venezuelan poodle moth is real! People think that these moths are a hoax due to the fact that they are so rare and photos of these insects only appear online occasionally.
Additionally, a few years ago, there was a picture floating around the internet of what was said to be a Venezuelan poodle moth holding on to someone’s hand- and the moth in this picture was later proved to be a felt model (of a completely different moth- the domesticated silk moth that is found in east Asia- entirely).
But despite all of this, these moths are in fact real and are not a hoax.
6. Venezuelan poodle moth diet
Since the Venezuelan poodle moth is so rare and has not been studied a lot, there is not a lot known about some of the specifics, such as their diet. But one of their closest relatives, the muslin moth (which is also a member of the Lasiocampidae family) gives researchers clues as to the behavior of the Venezuelan poodle moth.
Because of the muslin moth’s diet, scientists believe that the Venezuelan poodle moth eats a diet of herbaceous plants and they cause very little trouble to plants like crops. They may also eat nectar, fruit juices, and even animal dung.
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7. These moths are small!
While it is hard to tell exactly how large they are from pictures, and sightings of them are so rare, experts believe that their wingspan is just over an inch long, making them small creatures. (In pictures, these moths appear to be much bigger, but that is because the pictures are so close up and they do not have any other objects around them to give viewers context on their size.)
8. Venezuelan poodle moth habitat
The Venezuelan poodle moth is only found in Venezuela, South America, and cannot be found in any other parts of the world! These moths are found in the Canaima National Park which has diverse types of habitats, including forests and rocky plateaus. Some of the other creatures that call this region of Venezuela home include armadillos, otters, cougars, jaguars, Linnaeus’s Two-Toed Sloths, eagles, parrots, hummingbirds, toucans, and macaws.
9. Can they fly?
Even though these creatures are moths and they have wings, they cannot actually fly! Instead, these moths make silk. Moths are usually divided into two groups – flying moths and silk moths.
Adult silk moths may fly for four or five days, but that is it – this is just long enough for them to mate. Instead, the caterpillars of silk moths eat a lot (they will eat enough as caterpillars to sustain them for their entire adult life), which allows them to produce silk.
But if you have a silk scarf at home, that was not made by a Venezuelan poodle moth! Instead, commercial silk is produced by the domesticated silk moth caterpillars.
10. Are they new?
Some scientists are unsure as to if this is a “new” species of moth. Scientists agree that the pictures that Dr. Anker took are of a real moth and they do not disagree that the moth pictured exists. But some experts believe that the pictures are of an already discovered moth – such as the similarly looking muslin moth. So the jury is still out as if the Venezuelan poodle moth is a “new” species of moth or not.
11. Hot fuzz
Even though the Venezuelan poodle moth looks super fluffy, fuzzy, and hairy, it does not have hair or fur in the way that we think of it. The hair on humans (or the fur on all other mammals) is made up of keratin. The “fuzz” on moths (and butterflies) is made up of chitin.
Chitin is actually the same material that makes up the scales on moths! The “fuzz” is made up of slender, modified chitin scales!
The purpose of these scales is to regulate body heat (much like how feathers keep birds warm), to act as a defense mechanism (most moths are nocturnal so they have to have a defense against creatures like bats and the “fuzz” makes it harder for bats to locate them with sonar), and to create the moth’s color.
12. Are there more?
This insect gives scientists hope that there are still so many unique and wonderful creatures out there that no one has ever discovered! Cryptozoologist Kark Shuker says that there are “thousands of new insects discovered every year in the South American rain forests.” The Venezuelan poodle moth just happened to be one of the creatures that captured a lot of attention.
Now that we’ve learned all about the unique Venezuelan poodle moth, we are going to take a look at some more one of a kind moth species!
More “Strange” Moths
The mandolin moth
This is one of the most musical insects out there! Male mandolin moths “serenade” female moths during the mating season. The back wings of these moths are concave (as opposed to flat), much like the musical instrument the mandolin.
Then, one of the veins in this moth’s wing has a knot in it. When they rub the knot on their hind legs, the mandolin moth creates music in an effort to impress females!
The Hemiceratoides hieroglyphica is a distinctive moth due to its diet. While most moths eat a diet of plants, fruit, and nectar, this moth drinks tears! This moth has a harpoon-shaped mouth which allows them to easily drink the salty tears from sleeping birds. Other moths, such as the Calyptra eustrigata, uses a similar mouthpiece to drink the blood of mammals – including humans.
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The monopis moth
They are found in Australia and parts of Indonesia, do not lay eggs like every other type of moth. Instead, they are much more like mammals (in regard to breeding)! The monopis keep their offspring inside of their body until they form into caterpillars, completely skipping the larvae phase. Then, they will give birth to the caterpillars live.
Sloth moths got their name because they spend pretty much their entire lives with a moth “host!” Adult sloth moths live in the thick fur on sloths. When it is time for them to lay eggs, the sloth moth will lay their eggs in the dung of a sloth.
The eggs will grow into caterpillars (all while staying in these droppings!) before turning into adult moths- then they will go and find their own sloth “host.”
Luna moths are unlike most moths in the fact that they have bright colors (bright colors are much more common in butterflies). Their electric-green wings are long and they have “tails” on them. But these moths do not have mouths- adult moths live for only about a week, and that is just so that they can breed.
White witch moths
White witch moths are much larger than the tiny Venezuelan poodle moth. This moth is often mistaken for a bat when they fly at night- that is because their wingspan can be up to a foot long!
Death’s Head Hawkmoth
Death’s Head Hawkmoth is one of the noisiest types of moth in the world. When they feel scared or threatened, this moth will let out a loud squeak. And what is up with that name? The pattern on these moths looks a lot like a skull (you might recognize this moth from the poster of The Silence of the Lambs)!