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Why do some butterflies and moths have eyespots?

Moths and butterflies can be imprinted with the most beautiful spots and patterns. They are beautiful but they are there for a reason – to defend against hungry predators. These recognisable wing markings are most commonly known as eyespots, false eyes or false eyespots. They come in various patterns and colours, dependant on the moth/butterfly.

The spots are visible during larvae stage as well as adult and are often circular and made up of spherical, colourful rings. The patterns found on butterflies and moths enable them to hide from predators, however eyespots increase their visibility.

It is thought that not all butterflies and moths use their spots in the same way. The main theory for how the eyespots deters predators is intimidation. According to studies, it is thought that they eyespots impersonate the eyes of its attacker. Therefore, making the predator think they are facing a much larger, more dangerous animal. Several butterflies and moths have eyespots hidden on their hindwings and will flash them to predators when they feel threatened.

Instead of completely preventing an attack, another use for eyespots is to distract potential predators. The spots manipulate the attacker to aim for parts of the body that aren’t vital for survival, like the edges of the wings. If the moth or butterflies head was to be attached, it will kill them instantly, whereas if it hits the wing they will be able to survive.



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