Vampire Moth

Vampirism — piercing or cutting animal skin to suck or lap up blood — is known throughout the animal kingdom.

The Calyptra, commonly known as the Vampire Moth, is a fascinating and unique insect belonging to the family Erebidae, subfamily Calpinae. These moths are notable for their unusual feeding behavior, which involves drinking the blood of other animals, earning them their intriguing name.

Vampire Moths are relatively small in size, with wingspans ranging from 1.2 to 2.4 inches, depending on the species.
Their coloration varies but often includes shades of brown, gray, or black, helping them blend into their surroundings. The ability of Vampire Moths to feed on blood has evolved through a combination of specialized adaptations over a long period of time.

While the exact evolutionary history of this behavior is not fully understood, several factors have likely contributed to the development of blood-feeding abilities in these moths. Vampire Moths are believed to have evolved alongside their preferred hosts, which are typically mammals like cattle, water buffalo, and horses. Over time, these moths developed the ability to access the blood of these animals as a food source. They possess specialized mouthparts that have evolved to facilitate blood-feeding.

Their proboscis[1], a long, flexible feeding tube, is equipped with structures like serrated mandibles that can pierce the skin of their hosts and reach blood vessels. This adaptation allows them to extract blood efficiently. Moths like Vampire Moths may have evolved chemical adaptations to prevent the blood from coagulating while they feed.

This might involve the production of anticoagulant compounds in their saliva to maintain a continuous flow of blood. They have likely developed the ability to locate and recognize potential hosts based on various cues such as body heat, carbon dioxide emissions, and the scent of their hosts.

These adaptations help them find suitable feeding opportunities. Vampire Moths may have also developed specific behaviors to approach their hosts without being detected, such as flying silently or landing on exposed skin areas.

Species – Described By – Year
  • Calyptra albivirgata Hampson, 1926
  • Calyptra bicolor Moore, 1883
  • Calyptra canadensis Bethune, 1865 – Canadian owlet moth
  • Calyptra eustrigata Hampson, 1926
  • Calyptra fasciata Moore, 1882
  • Calyptra fletcheri Berio, 1956
  • Calyptra gruesa Draudt, 1950
  • Calyptra hokkaida Wileman, 1922
  • Calyptra imperialis Grünberg, 1910
  • Calyptra lata Butler, 1881
  • Calyptra minuticornis Guenée, 1852
  • Calyptra nyei Bänziger, 1979
  • Calyptra ophideroides Guenée, 1852
  • Calyptra orthograpta Butler, 1886
  • Calyptra parva Bänziger, 1979
  • Calyptra pseudobicolor Bänziger, 1979
  • Calyptra subnubila Prout, 1928
  • Calyptra thalictri Borkhausen, 1790)

Vampire Moths have been known to feed on humans as well, typically by landing on exposed skin and using their proboscis to access blood vessels. Vampire Moths are predominantly found in Southeast Asia, particularly in regions like Thailand, India, and Malaysia. They prefer tropical and subtropical habitats, including forests and agricultural areas where their hosts (mammals) are readily available. Vampire moths have been traced to a Central and Southern European species, Calyptra thalictri, individuals of this species are known to only feed on fruit.

Entomologists believe that the Vampire Moth has evolved to feed on blood vs. fruit. According to Chris Nice in a National Geographic article, some butterfly and moth species have hooked and barbed tongues in order to pierce through the tough skin of fruit. Evolutionarily speaking, one reason the fruit-loving insects started feeding on blood was for the male to offer the resulting salt as a ‘copulation gift’ to the female. This boost in nutrients would ensure that the resulting larva would be successful with a low-sodium diet.

Like other moths, Vampire Moths undergo a complete metamorphosis consisting of egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. The larvae of Vampire Moths are typically herbivorous, feeding on plant material. Pupation occurs in underground chambers, and adults emerge to mate and continue the life cycle. Their secretive and elusive nature makes them challenging to study in the wild.

  1. A proboscis is an elongated, tubular mouthpart found in many insects, particularly those in the order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). This specialized structure serves various functions depending on the species and feeding habits. In Lepidoptera, the proboscis is a coiled, straw-like appendage that is used for feeding on liquid substances such as nectar, fruit juices, or in the case of Vampire Moths, blood. When not in use, the proboscis is typically coiled beneath the insect’s head. To feed, the insect uncoils the proboscis and extends it to reach its food source. The proboscis is equipped with tiny structures like sensilla that help with food detection and is often adapted for specific feeding niches, reflecting the diverse dietary preferences within the order Lepidoptera. [Back]

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: