Linda Maas asked me: “Is the Venezuelan Poodle Moth as soft and cuddly as it looks?”. As you can see in the picture below, it does look awfully cute and cuddly. But is he?
The function of hair
Most mammals have hair and some are indeed very soft, pet a chinchilla and you know what I mean. The hairs in mammals have a clear function; mammals need to keep their body temperature at a certain temperature to function properly. Hairs prevent them from losing to much body heat. However, hairs in mammals are not the same as hairs in insects. We call it hairs in insects because they resemble hairs in mammals, but they are actually called setae of chaeta. Insect hairs are not meant to retain body heat as insects are cold-blooded animals. The Poodle Moth might look like it lives on Antarctica, but it comes from Venezuela which is a tropical country. So he won’t get cold there. The hairs in insects have lots of functions, from sensing their environments to smelling but also as defense mechanisms against animals trying to eat them.
Is the Poodle Moth cuddly?
Many insects use hairs to protect themselves against predators. Take for example the Oak Processionary caterpillar, you don’t want to pet one of those. There are moths which have hairs that irritate the skin and they also deposit those hairs on their eggs to protect them against predators. The Poodle Moth has been discovered only recently, in 2009. It isn’t even known yet which family it belongs to and it doesn’t have a Latin name yet. So to be frank, not much is known about the Poodle Moth. So we can only guess how cuddly it will be. However, the chances are pretty big that it isn’t as cuddly as you would wish it to be. Although it wouldn’t be the first moth to be petted.