Ento-musings from the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lunesta: Lime-Green Moth, Red-Hot Controversy

by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

Insects and spiders are often used in popular culture. They demand attention when they appear in movies, TV shows, billboards, etc. Sometimes, though, the depictions aren't 100% accurate. Over the Thanksgiving break I noticed that the moth featured in the one of the current Lunesta television commercials is not... quite... right.

Presumably, the creature in the commercial is meant to be a luna moth (although I cannot confirm this on the company's website). The luna moth is one of the largest moths in North America. It is native (and common in Kentucky) and is distinguished by its hairy, lime-green body and its long, tailed wings. At first glance, the Lunesta moth looks very much like a luna moth. The color is right. So are the markings. Heck, I think even the wing-venation is correct. But there is a fundamental error in the Lunesta mascot: luna moths do not have knobbed antennae. In fact, in most cases, only butterflies (and their relatives, the skippers) have truly knobbed antennae. The antennae of moths are typically long and straight, or feathery. This is one of the main distinctions between moths and butterflies (the Butterflies and Moths of North America website discusses some other differences as well).

Okay, so the mascot's antennae aren't perfect. I guess that's not a big deal. But while researching this topic I found that there is another controversy surrounding the Lunesta moth. John Mack, a marketing blogger, found evidence that the moth's presence in TV ads has been reduced. He thinks its because of negative marketing and maybe because the moth's "eerie glow" is a bit "frightening." Cool!

Read more about the luna moth and its relatives, the Giant Silkworm Moths, in our UK Entomology factsheet, written by Dr. Ric Bessin: Saturniid Moths.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Moth Featured at Cute Overload

by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

Insects are often pests and they are always invertebrates. Seldom, though, are they cute. So it is newsworthy that a Rosy Maple Moth (a Kentucky native) was recently featured on the popular website, Cute Overload:

Be Thankful for Tobacco Hornworms

by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

From the book The American Turkey by Andrew Smith, and sent to me this morning by a fellow entomologist here at UK:

"By far the most important reason for the growth of the domesticated turkey population in America, particularly in Virginia and Maryland, was tobacco. Tobacco was America's first agribusiness and preeminent colonial export. A major challenge in growing the crop was to control tobacco hornworms (Sphinx carolina)...In a time before pesticides and other deterrents, planters were helpless to fight hornworm infestation....To the rescue came the turkey, an omnivore that loves to feast on insects and bugs and finds the large and meaty tobacco worm irresistible. By the mid-eighteenth century planters were sending turkeys into their tobacco fields to eat worms...Fifty turkeys could handle an estimated hundred thousand worms if properly managed." The turkeys then became Thanksgiving dinners in the South, and the tradition grew from there!

Emerald Ash Borer Control

by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

I saw for the first time today a truck in Lexington, Ky, advertising "emerald ash borer control." It was a professionally printed magnet-style sign and the truck was owned by a local landscaping company. So the ash borer has officially bored into our pocketbooks here in the Bluegrass.

Read more about the emerald Ash Borer in Kentucky: