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Huge Moth
July 24, 2004 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Oh my god - is that a moth or a flying rat? [MI][moths][uk (possibly)]

This summer I've been attacked by three fecking HUGE moths. I've never seen anything like them before, and they're actually large enough to freak me out.

These things are mid grey, have about a 2-3 inch wingspan and rest with their wings open sitting about half an inch off the deck. Their bodies are the buggest I've ever seen and they almost look like they have a bulldog / dragon type head. They've got bright orange antenae and they can take three or four direct hits with a rolled newspaper with no apparent ill effect.

What the blue b*****y f**k are these things? I've never seen them before, and I don't really want to see them again. Will I be famous for discovering them or for building the aerosol powered flame thrower that brings them down?

We're up on the Cambridge Fens if that's of any relevance.
On preview: I've decided I like that typo. It's staying. ;)
posted by twine42 to Science & Nature (26 answers total)
 
To give you an idea, I'd think that they were this thing except these hold thier wings out, more like a butterfly rather than swept back in what I'd consider to be a 'moth' position.
posted by twine42 at 6:04 PM on July 24, 2004


I have no idea how to answer your question, but those moths you linked to are freaking horrifying. Jesus!
posted by josh at 6:28 PM on July 24, 2004


Chances are you're looking at a sphinx/hawk moth. Here's a US member of the species. They're like nocturnal hummingbirds when they fly. There are quite a few members of the species.

By the way, 3 inches is small especially when you start looking at giant silk moths.
posted by plinth at 6:32 PM on July 24, 2004


Sweet jesu. That ["here's"] is what a tomato hornworm produces? Faarrgh. Their caterpillars are bad enough. Big chubbers about the size of your index finger that chitter when you bother them. Ugh.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:52 PM on July 24, 2004


I've seen a couple 4-5 inch ones around this year. They look like birds or bats more than insects. I wrote this after the most recent encounter:

Early after twilight's fading, while I toyed with tone and shading,
On a dozen or so photographs that I took the day before,
While distracted, fingers tapping, suddenly there came a flapping,
As of someone quickly rapping, flapping at my sliding door.
" 'Tis some arthropod," I muttered, "flapping at my sliding door;
Only this, and nothing more."

But it captured my attention, and I doubted my contention,
When I saw the stretching shadow that it cast across the floor.
Peering out I sought the creature, vainly looking for some feature
That would tell and be my teacher, I got up then to explore,
To go out into the darkness that was deepening and explore,
To go out, outside that door

Open then I pulled the slider, finding nothing pulled it wider,
And I saw a backlit flyer, no more detail than before.
As I watched he wheeled and fluttered, "It's a bat" I almost uttered,
Then with realization spluttered, as I watched the creature soar.
It was a moth of some distinction that I found outside my door,
It was a moth, and nothing more
posted by Nothing at 9:01 PM on July 24, 2004


That one, by the way, was a polyphemus moth.
posted by Nothing at 9:02 PM on July 24, 2004


We had a polyphemus moth on our fence earlier this month, it was big, but pretty cool. I don't have any problems with bugs as long as they don't bite or sting me, but I think that Hornworm moth would be enough to give anyone the heebie jeebies.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:13 PM on July 24, 2004


What's the range polyphemus moths? We've had a couple huge moths in our house lately-- about the size of butterflies, but they look like moths except when they open their wings, there are red/orange markings on the inside. We call 'em "moth-erflies". Would we be getting polyphemus moths in metro Denver?
posted by Shoeburyness at 11:20 PM on July 24, 2004


From the Sphinx/Hawk Moth link: "Range: Eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada"

Whew...glad I live in Montana.
posted by davidmsc at 11:39 PM on July 24, 2004


2-3 inches, in the insect free world of the UK maybe that's big :P that is a normal size moth i think. in texas the big ones eat people, and drive around in cars!

i don't know where they are from though, maybe they are invading england!
posted by rhyax at 11:42 PM on July 24, 2004


Hmm. I was thinking twine meant the width of one wing, which would make the whole thing pretty damn big, but maybe not. Twine?

Anyway, sounds interesting. You might want to look at the many images from the Northamptonshire Moth Group, and see if your guy shows up there. But if you don't manage to track him down, you could contact the Wicken Fen Nature Reserve (which is kind of famous for their lepidoptera, I gather), or the folks who run this migrant moth site - I bet you could get an ID on your new friends from one of these sources.

Beautiful poem, Nothing!
posted by taz at 12:00 AM on July 25, 2004


I just have to say that I think the name "Wicked Fen" is wicked cool.
posted by namespan at 12:34 AM on July 25, 2004


Here's one I encountered in my garage a few years ago:

big moth
posted by tomierna at 12:42 AM on July 25, 2004


Ah. I would have thought it was where they keep Grendel and his mom.
posted by weston at 12:54 AM on July 25, 2004


I can't identify it for you but I can tell you that if you can get a photograph or two of it and send them to the Natural History Museum, they'll happily tell you what you've seen. They performed this service for me a few years ago when I found an insect in my home that I couldn't identify.
posted by Nick Jordan at 2:26 AM on July 25, 2004


Okay... Erm... now I'm a less than relaxed.

That bastard was HUGE by UK standards. Easily the largest moths I've ever seen. And no, 3 inches was the total span. That said, tomierna's picture next to a lighter got me thinking... and this thing was quite possibly up to 4 inches in size. That's 7 inches for the women.

But you guys are suggesting moths with six inch spans are normal? Dear god why on earth did we fight you for your country? We should have seen those buggers and run away screaming like little girls.

Ahem. Sorry about that.

taz : I'll check out Wicken Fen. It's less than ten miles from me (by the looks) and I didn't even know it existed!

Nick : I'd show the natural history museum, but the last one I found has a distinctly charred look to it. ;)
posted by twine42 at 2:59 AM on July 25, 2004


with regards to hornworm caterpillars making noise, the Death's Head Sphinx (which is found in Europe) makes a hissing or squeaking noise as an adult. That's freaky.
posted by plinth at 5:20 AM on July 25, 2004


What does b*****y mean? I was thinking it was bloody but there's one too many asteriks. Then I was thinking it was buttery, like a bucket of buttery cocks. Baloney fits too.

Could it have been a hummingbird moth? They're b*****y f**king big, and the body is very "fleshy" - not insect-like at all. Some call them beautiful. I call them horrifying. I saw one flitting around a butterfly bush in my backyard last week and I almost started crying, it was so scary. In addition to being "fleshy", they're also hairy in the same way that a tarantula is hairy. Here's a post about them, and some links to pics - the second pic is good to show their size and fleshiness. They look like bats.

These are the best (in other words, scariest) two pics of the moth. I live in PA, home of creepy, huge moths of all kinds.
posted by iconomy at 5:53 AM on July 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


b*****y = buggery.

Which I'm suddenly ashamed of in case ppl think it's a bad pun. My puns are much worse than that. ;)
posted by twine42 at 8:27 AM on July 25, 2004


iconomy: those are the cutest bugs I've ever seen! They look like flying plushies.

Moths rock. They also get very big.
posted by Eamon at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2004


My personal favorite

Great thread, btw.
posted by moonbird at 9:47 AM on July 25, 2004


you guys are afraid of MOTHS?????!?!?!!?!?!?!
posted by quonsar at 10:37 AM on July 25, 2004


Hah! Empire will be ours, now that those wily Europeans have let slip their secret weakness — mottephobia!

2-3 inches is a little bigger than I see on an average night, but not much. Most of the bigger moths I've seen have been luna moths, but the appropriately-named moonbird beat me to the link. They are spectacularly beautiful and about 6 inches athwartships and a bit longer abaft.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 4:01 PM on July 25, 2004


Eamon, does cute mean terrifying where you live? Hehe. I guess they are sort of endearing, once you're sure that they aren't going to kill you.

AskMetafilter: We're afraid of moths.

(I think that's AskMe's first tagline)
posted by iconomy at 4:53 PM on July 25, 2004


Yes, if terrifying means AWESOME where you live. What's not to love about a fuzzy cross between a hummingbird and a shrimp that drinks flower nectar all day?

Nothing.
posted by Eamon at 8:12 PM on July 25, 2004


i grew up in houston, and thinking about it i can't recall ever seeing a moth less than 2 inches wingspan, that's what i would call a normal smallish size moth. ;)
posted by rhyax at 10:43 PM on July 26, 2004


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