In Australia and South Asia lives a “disturbing” looking moth, the Creatonotos gangis.
Four huge tentacles covered in hair protrude from the insect’s bright red protruding abdomen, as if some kind of parasite were about to hatch from the inside.
A being that seems to have come out of an episode of Stranger Things.
In addition to the two antennae and three pairs of legs, typical of lepidoptera, this moth also has four large growths, very similar to grey hairy tentacles.
Creatonotos are not badly seen by the local populations because they are aggressive polyphagous; however, they eat various plant species, with even serious damage to the leaves of pomegranate trees.
The Creatonotos gangis moth
Traces of this can be found in the Insectorum Centuria of the doctor Carl Linnaeus as far back as 1763.
It can easily be found in: Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Thailand, New Guinea and Australia.
The male Creatonotos measures about four centimetres, but when mating season arrives, he shows a series of inflatable appendages called coremata which secrete pheromones to attract females.
Coremata are always present in the individual, but when at rest they are enclosed within the abdomen, and are only ever everted when necessary.
Coremata are studded with glandular hairs that spread pheromones.
The Creatonotos caterpillar feeds on plants with a high content of pyrrolizidinic alkaloids (bitter and potentially toxic taste) for protective purposes which makes it unattractive to predators.
Once adult, the alkaloids are converted and used to produce pheromones.
The adult male is capable of releasing over 400 micrograms of pheromones, however, if the caterpillar has been fasting on these elements, the choreates will not develop.
Creatonotos certainly looks unsafe, but it is not dangerous at all.
As far as we know, it doesn’t bite!