With large wings that open out flat and two bright blue eyespots that stand out on a white-grey body, the majestic hawkmoth looks majestic, especially with the five yellow-orange sports. Though they are harmless to humans and largely survive by drinking nectar from flowers, they can seem friendly. But their larvae have a menacingly different outcome.
The caterpillars of the Hawkmoth are known to lay waste to gardens and vegetable plantations. Their voracious appetites enable them to eat through almost all the plants quickly and can cause heavy losses to the farmers.
But plants are not far behind in evolution. When in distress, just as we call for help, plants too call their friends to fight these little critters.
Research shows that some plants when facing attacks by insects can secrete a chemical that can send out distress signals and summon an army to help them fight the caterpillars.
The wild tobacco plants can send out airborne chemicals to attract predators that love munching on these master munchers. Predator bugs usually can not find these fluorescent green caterpillars among the leaves of the plant. But by releasing the chemicals that help these predators target the caterpillars, their dinner is served.
The predators prey on the caterpillars and the plant is safe. Who doesn’t like good friends?
The Hawk Moth also changes its behaviour when it detects chemical signals. They skip the plants that are emitting these signals and lay their eggs elsewhere.
Taking a cue from the wild tobacco, the neighbouring plants like corn, cotton, lima beans, and others also imitate the chemical signals when the moths try to lay their eggs.
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