The Shining Moth
The shining moth, Hyles lumens, can be found in mainland Asia, as well as most of Japan. At a wing span of twenty centimenters, it is one of the largest moths of the region. But what makes the shining moth special is not its size, but rather the scales on its wings.
Shining moth males have a peculiar life-cycle. They come out during midday for a few hours, and then again around midnight. During the day, their scales, which are coated in a substance very similar to glow-in-the-dark vinyl, absorb the sunlight. And, when they come out again during the night, their glow attracts the females of the same species.
This behavior is very unusual for moths, who usually use the highly sensitive antennas on the males to find partners. In addition, although the light seems to attract females, it is only seen in a rather restricted radius, and it can be a big give-away to predators. Thus, it has been theorized that this morphological trait must have evolved in isolated conditions, with low risk of predation and in confined space. How the moths managed to spread as far as they have, though, remains a mystery.
In ancient Asian culture, shining moths are a recurrent theme, and the people seem to believe that they are a good omen. It is even said that some cultures have elaborate rituals centered around the moth, either to extend ones' life, or to guide the dead to heaven.
Dr. Louis Eclats, of the Institut des Lumieres de Paris (ILP), believes that the moths have had a deep and lasting impact in asian culture that far exceeds that of the occasional ritual, and that every religion in the area has been inspired by the insects. He is also keen on studying the moth's wings in greater detail, since the conservation and emission of light is much more refined in these, than in our own glow-in-the-dark objects,