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Strikingly large, with a skull-like marking on its thorax and the ability to squeak when alarmed, the moth was traditionally seen as an omen of death. But, most famously of all, the pupa of the moth is left as a grisly calling card by the psychotic serial killer in the horror blockbuster The Silence of the Lambs Although the film's director decided to use the pupa of another species because it looked more dramatic! Their presence caused quite a stir at Court and conspiracy theories started immediately after the sighting. Many believed that the moths had been placed there by people trying to further damage the mental health of the King and destabilise his reign. Its real home is in the warmth of southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

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One of our most distinctive nighttime flying jewels is the giant leopard moth. With a name like giant leopard moth, you might think this large moth should display the ferocious nature of the leopard, which roams the wilds of Asia and Africa.

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Nothing could be further from the truth. Taxonomists dubbed it the giant leopard moth because its wings are covered with leopard-like spots. These spots vary from black to blue.

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Some even have white centers. While I have no problem with this handsome moth being named for a leopard, it might have been more appropriate to call it the Dalmatian moth. The female leopard moth is smaller than its male counterpart.

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Males have a wingspan of about 3. Although the giant leopard moth can conceivably be seen in just about any backyard throughout Georgia, if you knew nothing about the elusive moth and had the task of venturing into the night to capture one, you would probably return home empty-handed. What you need most for a successful search is that the giant leopard moth is attracted to lights. The best strategy, then, would be for you to pull up a lawn chair near an outside light and wait for the moth to come to you.

When one does show up, chances are it will be a male. For some reason, females do not visit light nearly as often as the males. While some homeowners report seeing more than a dozen giant leopard moths gathering around a single light, I must confess I have never seen more than one at a time.

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Sometimes giant leopard moths can be found in the daytime on the ground or on walls near an outside light. If you try to touch them, they might try to appear dead.

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This ruse is often accompanied with the moth curling up to expose it abdomen. If this doesn't deter what the insect interprets as a predator, it will emit a yellow fluid.

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The moth also has a few other ways to protect itself from being eaten. Obviously, it is always best not to be spotted by a predator.

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Biologists believe the odd white and black pattern displayed on the insect's wings are a form of disruptive coloration. As odd as it may seem to us, this pattern supposedly makes the giant leopard moth harder for bird or other predators to spot.

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The moth's nocturnal habits also greatly reduce the chance it will be spotted by a bird simply because most of them are active during the daytime. Unfortunately for giant tiger moths, whip-poor-wills, chuck-wills-widows and bats are on the prowl when the sun goes down and will not turn down the opportunity to dine on a big, juicy moth. To avoid bats, the giant leopard moth has more options.

Remarkably, the moths have ears that are behind the spot where its hind wings the body.

The moth mainstage

Lepidopterists, those who study or collect moths and butterflies, believe these organs enable giant leopard moths to detect the echolocation sonar the bats use to detect their prey. The moth even has the ability to produce clicking sounds. The theory is these sounds are used to jam the bat's echolocation system. If you don't find one right away, don't give up: Giant leopard moths can be seen in the Peach State throughout the summer.

Terry W. Permission is required to reprint this column.

Dispatches from the moth

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Adventure Together How to enjoy the hunt. View Our Preparedness Plan. Giant leopard moth By Terry W. Johnson One of our most distinctive nighttime flying jewels is the giant leopard moth. However, since it is a creature of the night, we rarely see it.

If there is a giant leopard moth in the area, there is a chance it will come to your light.

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