Thursday, 21 December 2017

Lost species of bee-mimicking moth rediscovered after 130 years


The rare oriental blue clearwing, that disguises itself as a bee, was spotted in the Malaysian rainforest

Friday 15 December 2017 15.59 GMTLast modified on Saturday 16 December 2017 00.05 GMT

A moth that disguises itself as a bee and was previously only identified by a single damaged specimen collected in 1887 has been rediscovered in the Malaysian rainforest by a lepidopterist from Poland.

The oriental blue clearwing (Heterosphecia tawonoides) was seen “mud-puddling” – collecting salts and minerals from damp areas with its tongue-like proboscis – on the banks of a river in Malaysia’s lowland rainforest, one of the most wildlife-rich – and threatened – regions on Earth.
Four individuals of the rare moth, which shines strikingly blue in sunshine, were collected for genetic analysis and examination of their genitalia, which confirmed that the specimens belonged to this “lost species”.

The 1887 specimen was collected in Indonesia but Marta Skowron Volponi of the University of Gdańsk rediscovered the species when she saw a flash of brilliant blue on the banks of unpolluted rivers flowing through lowland rainforest on the Peninsula Malaysia.

On three field trips in 2013, 2016 and 2017, Skowron Volponi and her co-author and husband, filmmaker Paolo Volponi, observed and filmed just 12 individuals, suggesting the elusive moth is extremely rare.

In a paper for Tropical Conservation Science, Skowron Volponi described how the oriental blue clearwing was the only moth or butterfly seen mud-puddling among the bees it mimicked.

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