The genus Calyptra is a group of moths in subfamily Calpinae of the family Noctuidae. They are a member of the Calpini tribe. whose precise circumscription is uncertain but includes a number of other fruit-piercing or eye-frequenting genera currently classified in Calpinae.
The common name of many of these species, vampire moth, refers to the habit that they have of drinking blood from vertebrates. According to a recent study, some of them (C. thalictri) are even capable of drinking human blood through skin. However, the moths are not thought to cause any threat to humans.
Some species of this genus have been classified with genus name Calpe and they include more than one blood-sucker.
These insects have been changing their habitat in recent years. The species Calyptra thalictri was native to Malaysia, the Urals and Southern Europe, but is turning up in northern Europe. In 2000, they were observed in Finland and in 2008 they were seen further west in Sweden. The Swedish observation was in Skutskär north of the capital Stockholm whilst the sightings in Finland have been more numerous. It is found in southern Finland, in particular in the south east.
Insects piercing the skin of mammals is familiar in creatures such as mosquitoes, but the moth uses a specially developed proboscis to penetrate the skin of animals, such as buffalo. A species in Malaysia was observed using its hollowed out proboscis which is divided into two halves. The insect rocks the proboscis from one side to the other, applying pressure until it pierces the skin. It then uses a rocking head motion to drill the tube deeper into the skin. The blood pressure of the victim supplies power to raise hooks on the proboscis to ensure the insect is not easily detached. Only male moths exhibit this ability, unlike mosquitoes, where the female is the one that drinks blood.
It is thought that the moth's ability to pierce animal skin and drink blood may have sprung from an earlier ability to pierce fruit in search of juice. Human skin penetrated in this way may turn red and be sore for several hours. Despite the wound being more severe than that of a mosquito, the moths are not believed to pose a risk to human health.
Although it has been reported that moths have bitten humans in Asia, it was not until the summer of 1999 that a Russian scientist, Vladimir Kononenko, observed that this species of moth was capable of filling its stomach with human blood.
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