Moths: hot or not?

Male moths may be throwing themselves into a relationship before they’re ready.

When a virgin male moth gets a whiff of a female’s pheromones, he starts shivering to warm up his flight muscles and prepare for take-off. However, some males take off when they’re still too cool for a powerful flight, according to scientists from the University of Utah. This too-cool behaviour could cost them their mate, as moths that take the time to warm up have more flight power.

The scientists watched temperature changes with an infrared camera as the moths started shivering their way up from purple-blue to orange and, in some cases, a warmer red. The moths that smelt the pheromones took off before they were fully warmed up.

“These guys don’t all heat up at the same rate,” Professor Neil Vickers says. “The guys exposed to the pheromone odour, go ‘Wow!’ and they warm up faster and take off more quickly. And that compromises the flight power they can produce.”

The moths use a lot of oxygen and energy to make a flight, so this shouldn’t be a decision that they undertake without consideration. “It’s costly to fly, to jump into a relationship,” Vickers says.

Source: Eureka Alert

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