The Jimsonweed Junkies

Across the Americas, during the twilight hours of the summer, a poisonous perennial weed unfurls its ingeniously folded conical wildflower and offers itself to all comers. Every bit of the weed is toxic, and its nectar is held deep within it’s corolla tube, so there are few takers. One family of moth, however, happens to have just the tools for the job; Its proboscis is long (longer in most cases that the rest of its entire body) and its proclivities… well… let’s just say this moth likes to get high baby.

09.23. filed under: science.

Just the other night while reading The Selfish Gene I came across another junkie/dealer dynamic in the natural world. The caterpillar of the Thisbe Irenea butterfly lives within ant colonies and territories, where it secretes a steady flow of nectar-like substance to avoid being attacked by the ant soldiers. More interestingly, though, it also gives off a chemical odour which appears to cause intoxication in nearby ants. They will follow the caterpillar around for days, exhibiting increased aggressiveness against any potential predators. So as to render them more efficient bodyguards, one presumes.

In your example, the relationship could be seen as benign; the moths are getting nectar which they would have required from some plant in any case. In mine, the ants are just being fucked with. Distracted from their higher role of advancing the nest and propagating their genes through their minding of the queen.

posted on 09.25 at 11:31 AMPierce

Well, your ants may be getting “fucked with” but even in their case it could be much worse. I assume that at some point the caterpillar releases his hold on them and they awake from their trance, maybe with a bit of a “where the hell was I last night” type hangover? If they’d had a run-in with a Cordyceps fungus, they wouldn’t wake up at all. Poor bastards.

posted on 09.25 at 12:23 PMjmorrison


posted on 09.25 at 12:32 PMPierce

EGAD! First the drugs, then the fungal invasions, then Japanese snail porn. My mind-gina is sore now.

You know, there are some very beautiful moths (moths have the rep of being drab compared to butterflies, but some of them are very sleek, like the hawk moth). Another very handsome little creature is the luna moth.

posted on 09.25 at 09:57 PM.

You know, I had a thought this afternoon. The hawk moths would not feel an urge to alter their consciousness unless they had some sort of consciousness… no?

posted on 09.28 at 05:12 PM.

Japanese snail porn ? that has to be the funniest thing i’ve heard today :))

posted on 11.16 at 10:23 AMlong term drug rehab

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