A moth that squeaks

Today is shaping up as Animal Post Day.

Very few moths make any sound at all. This one, Acherontia atropos (the “death’s head hawk moth), squeaks.  That makes it endearing, no?

The Wikipedia article on the species (link above) says this:

The moth also has numerous other unusual features. It has the ability to emit a loud squeak if irritated. The sound is produced by expelling air from its proboscis. It often accompanies this sound with flashing its brightly marked abdomen in a further attempt to deter its predators [JAC: notice that, too, in the video above]. It is commonly observed raiding beehives for honey at night. Unlike the other species of Acherontia, it only attacks colonies of the well-known Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. It is attacked by guard bees at the entrance, but the thick cuticle and resistance to venom allow it to enter the hive. It is able to move about in hives unmolested because it mimics the scent of the bees.

The British entomological journal Atropos takes its name from this species.

h/t: Bug Girl via Matthew Cobb


  1. gbjames
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    That is one big honking moth!

    • Florian
      Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      Seems a very large moth to be sneaking around a beehive at night. I do like how it squeaks.

  2. tbolland
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Question: if this is true why didn’t it squeak in “The Silence of the Lambs”?

    • suwise3
      Posted January 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      ‘Cause it doesn’t sound scary. Moth makes more of a squeaky toy sound.

    • pulseteresa
      Posted January 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      Just checking this discussion thread to make sure that someone referenced “The Silence of the Lambs.” Well done. Carry on.

    • gravelinspector
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      “Silence” was the first thing that I thought of too, from the name. But the moths depicted in the film were smaller, IIRC? (I don’t have a copy of the film ; I think that I’ve got the book somewhere, but I’m not sure that it was even a plot element in the book.)

  3. Les Kaufman
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Wow, I never realized that the “Mothman Prophecies” was meant in the active voice!

  4. Posted January 17, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    It is indeed endearing, however I suspect that in moth language, it is cursing like a sailor.

  5. marycanada FCD
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Always found moths interesting. Thanks for posting

  6. still learning
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Considering how moths are attracted to light, that one is big enough to unscrew the bulb and fly off with it! Oh, wait, he has his own lightbulb…

    I turned the volume up and watched as my 2 kittehs alerted, then hunted for the squeaky toy.

  7. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    So Danes are loud-mothed even without beer?

    The things you learn about organisms!

  8. Posted January 17, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Why doesn’t it fly off to escape the man-handling hands?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 3:54 am | Permalink

      That question occurred to me, too. It seems curiously reluctant to fly.

      But it’s a beautiful big moth!

    • gravelinspector
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      Errrr, because flying is expensive (energetically) and it has learned that the human-like things are annoying but not actively dangerous.

  9. Posted January 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    No, not endearing.

  10. marksolock
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  11. Diane G.
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink


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