All New, Attack Moths!

It seems like there is a preponderance of urban legends that involve insects crawling into our faces while we sleep.  The most famous myth is something along the lines of “you eat 8 spiders a year while sleeping“.  Actually when you google that the number ranges from 4 to 8… up to a pound?  Not surprising things get so exaggerated online, especially when it concerns the ever so popular arachnophobia.  I doubt the average American eats more than a few spiders over their entire lifetime; your home simply shouldn’t be crawling with so many spiders that they end up in your mouth every night!  A similar myth is still a myth but with a grain of truth – that earwigs burrow into your brain at night to lay eggs.  It isn’t true that earwigs are human parasites (thankfully), but they do have a predisposition to crawl into tight, damp places.  It is possible that this was a frequent enough occurrence in Ye Olde England that the earwig earned this notorious name.  Cockroaches have also been documented as ear-spelunkers – but any crawly insect that might be walking on us at night could conceivably end up in one of our orifices.

I have however never heard of a moth crawling into an ear until I came across this story today!  I guess a confused Noctuid somehow ended up in this boy’s ear, although I can’t help but to wonder if he put it there himself…  Moths aren’t usually landing on people while they are asleep nor are they that prone to find damp, tight spots.  But then again anything is possible, some noctuids do crawl under bark or leaves in the daytime for safe hiding.  I even came across another story of an ear-moth form the UK (not that the Daily Mail is a reputable source).

Naturally, some lazy news sources are using file photos of “moths” instead of copying the photo from the original story.  It’s extra hilarious because one of the pictures used is of a new species of moth described last year by Bruce Walsh in Arizona.  Lithophane leeae has been featured on my blog twice before, but never like this!

On a closing note here is a poem by Robert Cording (also where the above image was found).

Consider this: a moth flies into a man’s ear
One ordinary evening of unnoticed pleasures.

When the moth beats its wings, all the winds
Of earth gather in his ear, roar like nothing
He has ever heard. He shakes and shakes
His head, has his wife dig deep into his ear
With a Q-tip, but the roar will not cease.
It seems as if all the doors and windows
Of his house have blown away at once—
The strange play of circumstances over which
He never had control, but which he could ignore
Until the evening disappeared as if he had
Never lived it. His body no longer
Seems his own; he screams in pain to drown
Out the wind inside his ear, and curses God,
Who, hours ago, was a benign generalization
In a world going along well enough.

On the way to the hospital, his wife stops
The car, tells her husband to get out,
To sit in the grass. There are no car lights,
No streetlights, no moon. She takes
A flashlight from the glove compartment
And holds it beside his ear and, unbelievably,
The moth flies towards the light. His eyes
Are wet. He feels as if he’s suddenly a pilgrim
On the shore of an unexpected world.
When he lies back in the grass, he is a boy
Again. His wife is shining the flashlight
Into the sky and there is only the silence
He has never heard, and the small road
Of light going somewhere he has never been.

– Robert Cording, Common Life: Poems (Fort Lee: CavanKerry Press, 2006), 29–30.

5 comments to All New, Attack Moths!

  • That’s a fun local news story. Haha, somehow the kid knew it was a moth before they pulled it out. Mmhmm. Earwigs crawling into ears is more plausible and documented.

    Say, do you know anything about lachryphagous lepidopterans on humans? As I was looking into mud-puddling related behavior the other day, the only article I could find online was from Thailand

  • Bruce Walsh

    Well, I have had a moth in the ear before. It was a micro, used a kill-jar to stop the buzzing. About three weeks later, when I had forget all about it, I had a HUGE piece of ear wax fall out, with a nice little moth enclosed. Yummy!

  • I had a moth extracted from my ear about two hours ago.

    I was sitting outside on a porch talking with a couple I had just met, when the thing just flew right in there, and buried deep. It was actually quite painful.

    Luckily, the lady was very resourceful, and had it out within a couple of minutes with tweezers. Not a very pleasant experience.

    So, yes, it definitely happens!

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