Blood-sucking vampire moth is on the loose

Nearly 200 sightings have been made of a vampire moth in Finland - nothing to do with Eurovision song contest-winning monster group Lordi being based there, of course.

Professor Kauri Mikkola writes in the June issue of the Finnish nature periodical Suomen Luonto that the first of its kind in the world that has a proven ability to fill its stomach with human blood. Another species related to the vampire moth is known to have bitten humans in South-East Asia.

The fact that the skin-piercing blood-sucking moth (calyptra thalictriis) could suck blood was first detected by the Russian researcher Vladimir Kononenko, while he was taking part in an expedition near Vladivostok, in the extreme South-Eastern region of Russia, last summer. In Professor Mikkola's article, Kononenko described the puncture made by the blood-sucker in his thumb, saying that afterwards his skin swelled and turned reddish, and the thumb ached for two to three hours.

The puncture of a vampire moth is clearly stronger than that made by a mosquito", notes Mikkola. However, he feels that there is no need to start avoiding the moth.

"A human being is a suitable target, having a bare skin. However, one would normally drive the moth away, while in this case a researcher was interested in the behaviour of the creature", notes Mikkola. Only male moths of this genus suck blood, while normally the species is noted for fruit-piercing or eye-frequenting, sucking tears from the eyelids of large animals such as elk and cows. the finnish name for the moth, kyynelyökkönen, reflects this trait, as the word "kyynel" translates as "tear". Mikkola is now waiting for observations made by Finnish butterfly hobbyists, while he does not believe that a puncture made by a vampire moth would be dangerous for humans, as it is unlikely to spread any diseases.

The first sightings of the calyptra thalictri species were made in Finland in 2000. It can be found in southern part of the country, particularly the south-east.