The Madagascan Sunset Moth

Madagascan Sunset Moth
Madagascan Sunset Moth

The Madagascan Sunset Moth

Flying by day
           this spineless boneless
innately venomous creature
          is a paragon of brash
invertebrate beauty
           but beauty comes
at such a price
           Native only to Madagascar
it flits from bloom to bloom
           its long proboscis
supping by preference
           on the nectar of white flowers
More choosy still
           are the larvae that
that feed only on plants
           from the toxic Omphalea family
They hatch from eggs
           laid on the underside
of the leaves of these plants
           The white or pale yellow larvae
with bright red feet will
           once they emerge
mercilessly devour the entire plant
           leaf     flower     stems
and all
           before moving on
to decimate another
           of the same family
From tip to tip
           their wings span
a good three inches
            and boast shades of black
and blue and red and yellow
            and emerald green
Patterns of kaleidoscopic effect
           are produced by the wings’
curved scales creating
           optical interference
as light is reflected
           at sharply different angles
Toxicity is their defence
           for though the caterpillars
eat the poisonous plants
           the toxins are not digested :
these remain in their bodies
           through pupation
into adulthood
            To most predators
a most noxious
           foul-tasting moth—
the iridescence of their wings
           a salutary warning

John Lyons