Moths in the genus Calyptra are sometimes known as vampire moths, a colorful name referring to the ability of at least some species to pierce mammalian flesh and feed on blood. Calyptra species have wingspans ranging from 35 to 72 mm. They are found in southern Europe, eastern Africa, sub-Himalayan southern Asia, Manchuria, and broadly throughout southeast Asia; a single species, Calyptra canadensis, is found in eastern North America (Covell 1984; Wagner 2005; Zaspel et al. 2007). The modified proboscis of these moths has strongly sclerotized erectile barbed hooks (at the distal end of the galeae) used for piercing both thick and hard-skinned fruits such as peaches, plums, and citrus fruits--and sometimes the skin of mammals (Büttiker et al. 1996 and references therein). It is likely that blood-feeding moths engage in this behavior facultatively, depending on regional availability of mammalian versus plant hosts. (Zaspel et al. 2007 and references therein)
Eight of the 17 to 19 described species have been reported to pierce mammalian skin under natural conditions: C. eustrigata (Hampson), C. minuticornis minuticornis (Guenée), C. orthograpta, (Butler), C. bicolor (Moore), C. fasciata (Moore), C. ophideroides (Guenée), C. parva Bänziger and C. pseudobicolor Bänziger (5 of these 8 have been known to pierce human skin) and two additional species (C. fletcheri and C. thalictri) have shown this behavior in experiments or under semi-natural conditions. (Zaspel et al. 2007 and references therein)
Zaspel et al. (2007) documented the first example of blood-feeding by Calyptra in a temperate region, by C. thalictri in Far Eastern Russia. Individuals from one site exhibited blood-feeding behavior in experimental trials while individuals from a second site did not. Such variation has been observed for other Calyptra species as well. (Zaspel et al. 2007 and references therein)
In subtropical and tropical Asia, Calyptra moths are considered facultative or opportunistic blood-feeders, typically feeding on ungulates (hoofed mammals) such as tapirs, rhinos, and cattle, and occasionally on elephants and humans. Interestingly, female Calyptra adults have not been documented feeding on blood. (Bänziger 1975; Zaspel et al. 2007 and references therein)
Images of Calyptra thalictri larvae, cocoons, and adults taken by Eduard Berlov can be seen here.
Calyptra albivirgata Hampson 1926, Calyptra aureola Graeser 1889, Calyptra bicolor Moore 1883, Calyptra canadensis (Bethune 1865), Calyptra capucina Linnaeus sensu Esper 1789, Calyptra centralitalica Dannehl 1925, Calyptra dubiosa Brandt 1941, Calyptra eustrigata Hampson 1926, Calyptra fasciata Moore 1882, Calyptra fletcheri Berio 1956, Calyptra gruesa Draudt 1950, Calyptra hoenei Berio 1956, Calyptra hokkaida Wileman 1922, Calyptra imperialis Grünberg 1910, Calyptra intensiva Warren 1913, Calyptra labilis Berio 1970, Calyptra lata Butler 1881, Calyptra minuticornis Guenée 1852, Calyptra novaepommeraniae Strand 1919, Calyptra nyei Bänziger 1979, Calyptra ophideroides Guenée 1852, Calyptra orthograpta Butler 1886, Calyptra pallida Schwingenschuss 1938, Calyptra parva Bänziger 1979, Calyptra pseudobicolor Bänziger 1979, Calyptra sodalis Butler 1878, Calyptra striata Poujade 1887, Calyptra subnubila Prout 1928, Calyptra thalictri Borkhausen 1790