166. The Most Beautiful

The Madagascan moth, popularly known as the Sunset Moth is the most beautiful insect in the world. It is a day flying moth and is a collector’s delight! The iridescent parts of the wings do not have any color pigments. The colors originate from an optical interference of light rays!

The adult moth has a wing span of 7 to 9 centimeters. Some moths can have a wing span up to 11 centimeters. This moth is endemic to Madagascar. It can be seen all the year round, with a peak population between March and August and in lesser numbers between October and December.

Sunset moth resembles the Swallow tailed butterflies in its tails and wings. This moth is black with iridescent colors red, blue and green as markings. It has a fringe of white scales on the wings which is wider at the hind wings. It has six tails. Pattern variation is very common. Some of the moths are asymmetrical! This may be due to the temperature shock suffered during the pupae stage.

The colors originate from the coherent scattering and the interference of light by the micro structures of ribbon like scales covering the moth’s wings.The colors are produced by the conjunction of these two optical phenomenon.

Unlike the other moths, this one flies during day time. Its bright radiant colors warn the predators of it toxicity. It holds both its wings vertically up over it back, while resting at night, similar to the butterflies.

Their pretty wings were used to make jewelery in the Victorian Era. The Malagasy people believe that the soul of the dead ancestors appear in the form of these moths. To attack a moth means to attack one’s own ancestors!

Visalakshi Ramani


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