Who is the Killer Moth? A friend writes me to find out:
A friend of mine is a big comic book fan, and he’s taken an interest in an obscure Batman villain named Killer Moth. (Yes, really). My friend always assumed he was named “Killer Moth” after some actual species or family of moth, but we haven’t been able to find any that are called by that common name. Have you ever heard of an actual killer moth? Are there any moths you know of that pose a danger to humans, or are otherwise called “killer moths”?
Either way, of course, the name is kind of hilarious. If there is an actual killer moth, then there’s been at least one Batman writer with an unusually deep knowledge of the Lepidoptera. If there isn’t, then they named a villain after one of the most harmless animals on earth and then slapped the word “killer” on the front to make it more threatening.
First up, the death’s head sphinx moth, from Silence of the Lambs fame. Obviously ominous appearance which resulted in its name in addition to feeding on nightshade as a larva which makes it deadly to feed upon. So unless this Killer Moth gets eaten by all of its enemies, I think not, but perhaps could have been a source of inspiration.
Secondly, there is a group of pyralid moths in the genus Calyptra which are ‘vampire’ moths. They feed on blood by piercing the skin with their proboscis and allow the mammal’s blood pressure to pump the blood up into them. This blood-sucking behavior likely evolved from their ancestors being fruit eaters and needing to pierce tough fruit skins, and eventually making the switch to piercing skin and drinking blood. So this is more likely a potential killer moth, especially if it was the size of us.
Considering there are thousands of species of Lepidoptera that feed on fruit by piercing the tough skin, an awesome future evolution of them could result in a lot more blood-sucking moths some day.
After looking the character up on Wikipedia, I see that it morphed into another form called Charaxes. I italicize that out of habit as that is the name of a genus of African butterflies whose relatives I work with in Peru. These butterflies have a thick proboscis for piercing fruit and are fairly unique in having well developed ‘teeth’ on the front end of the forewing used for defense and aggression against other males, and I’m sure those teeth could be well adapted to use as a supervillain.