Do Moths eat Mosquitoes?

Moths do not eat mosquitoes. Indeed, there are several types of moths, including the beautiful pale green luna moth, that do not eat at all. When they hatch out of their cocoons they expel their digestive systems, mate and die.

What do Moths eat?

Moths that do eat feed on fluids. Their mouthparts are not made for eating animals. These moths have a coiled proboscis in their head that unfurls into a long sucking tube.

They use this tube to feed on nectar, sap from the wounds of trees, the fluids given off by rotting fruit and muddy puddles. They often gather in great numbers to do this.

They have also been known to drink from puddles of urine.

All moth caterpillars are voracious feeders, whether their adult form feeds or not. A caterpillar, indeed, is basically a moving feeding tube.

Still, most of these larvae, which are also called borers, worms or slugs, feed on plant material. They eat leaves, flowers and fruit, and some bore into wood or stems in order to find food.

There are some caterpillars that are scavengers and others that do eat insects such as scale insects or plant lice. Of course, clothes moth caterpillars eat fiber.

Plant lice and scale insects are slow moving creatures that infest plants, and they do not fly away. Some caterpillars would no doubt eat mosquitoes if they stood still.

Scavengers may eat dead ones, and it is possible that if an insect eating caterpillar came upon a mosquito sucking nectar from a flower it might attempt to eat it. Some would even eat mosquito larvae if they were not aquatic. No moth caterpillar lives underwater.

Hungry Caterpillars

Caterpillar Physiology

The body of the caterpillar is divided into the head, thorax and abdomen, and the head and its mouthparts are complex.

All caterpillars have a line like an upside down Y that extends down from the top of their head, and the lower arms of the Y form a structure called the frons or the frontal triangle.

Beneath it is a narrow plate called the clypeus, which is found between two short antennae. The upper lip, also called the labrum, is found below the clypeus.

When the caterpillar eats, the notch of the upper lip grabs the edge of the leaf. Beneath that is the mandible, or the jaw.

A disturbed caterpillar may even bite a human, but the bite is of no consequence. What is more effective is the caterpillar vomiting up its food or excreting a noxious material.

Some caterpillars even squeak, such as the Abbott’s Sphinx.

Other caterpillars have poisonous spines that can deliver a surprisingly painful sting. The puss caterpillar, which turns into the southern flannel moth, is notorious for this. No moths sting, bite or have poisonous spines.

Moths and mosquitoes do not really interact with each other, though they might find themselves feeding from the same plant.

How Moths and Mosquitoes Are Alike

Metamorphosis

The two insects are similar in that they both undergo what is called complete, or holometabolous metamorphosis. They hatch from eggs, spend some time as larvae, pupate, and turn into adults.

The larval stage for both insects is drastically different from that of the adult. As caterpillars turn into moths, wrigglers, which are aquatic, turn into mosquitoes.

When the larva pupates its entire body is destroyed and rebuilt. The mouthparts of the moth caterpillar turn into the long feeding tube, the mouthparts of the wriggler turn into piercing mouthparts to feed on plants, animals or people.

Both insects develop wings, and while some species of moths are spectacularly beautiful, the mosquito cannot be said to be so.

Impact on Humans and Others

Helpful Moths

Moths and mosquitoes have a great impact on humans as well. Since caterpillars spend their time munching through mostly plant material, plants have developed ways to dissuade them.

Plants have evolved to produce such chemicals as alkaloids, terpenes and even opium to curb the onslaught of caterpillars. Tannins are also distasteful to caterpillars, though they give red wine its distinctive body.

Caterpillars are beneficial in that they help decompose dead leaves and rotting fruit and wood. Caterpillars and moths are a feast for birds in the spring, and even people eat caterpillars and pupae. Moths that are able to feed are important pollinators and some, like the yucca moth, specialize on certain plants.

Unfortunate Mosquitoes

The story of mosquitoes is of course more complex. The females can be notorious disease vectors, for they need a blood meal to lay their eggs.

When they bite, they pass parasites and other pathogens into their hosts. Even in 2018 hundreds of millions of people are infected and hundreds of thousands of people die from malaria spread by the Anopheles mosquito.

Malaria is only one of the diseases spread by mosquitoes. Other mosquito-borne diseases include West Nile virus, Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya virus.

Just being bit up by a scourge of harmless mosquitoes during a hot summer is a misery.

Bats, dragonflies and birds may eat mosquitoes by the hundredweight, and male mosquitoes may pollinate some flowers, but the devastation caused by the female makes even environmentalists wonder whether mosquitoes should simply be extirpated.

Conclusion

So, no, moths don’t eat mosquitoes, though it would be helpful if they did.

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