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The Buzz: Battle of the Winged


Like the Marvel Comics villain Mysterio who blocks Spiderman’s spider-sense by emitting a special gas, a species of tiger moths can jam the sonar signals emitted by bats in order to escape the grisly fate of becoming a midflight meal. The tiger moths, Bertholdia trigona, possess a unique structure, the tymbal, that produces a clicking noise similar to the one made by bats themselves, but until recently it was uncertain whether the moths were actually emitting ultrasonic signals or whether they were sending a different message, such as “I’m poisonous.” Now, researchers at Wake Forest University have demonstrated that the moths are, in fact, essentially scrambling their predators’ sonar. If only Spiderman had been bitten by a tiger moth, instead.