Moths of the Amazon and Andes
Rothschild's Black-tufted Wasp Mimic

Cosmosoma flavothorax ROTHSCHILD, 1910

Superfamily - NOCTUOIDEA

subfamily - ARCTIINAE


Cosmosoma flavothorax, Tatama NP, Colombia Adrian Hoskins


There are about 6000 known species of Arctiinae in the neotropical region. Most are noxious to birds and have aposematic or diematic warning coloration. The tribe Ctenuchini is entirely confined to the Americas. It is comprised of 2 subtribes Ctenuchina and Euchromiina which together account for a total of 2532 known species, of which 2496 are wholly neotropical in distribution. The remaining 36 species are partly or wholly North American in distribution. Almost all of the genera within these two subtribes consist entirely of species that mimic wasps or bees.
There are 187 known species in the genus Cosmosoma. The moths are restricted to the neotropics and southern limits of the nearctic, with the greatest diversity and abundance in the rainforests and cloudforests of Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.
Cosmosoma flavothorax is distiguished by the yellow thorax, black -tipped abdomen, and metallic blue spots at the base of the black patagia. It is found in Colombia, and probably also in Venezuela and Ecuador.
This species was found in cloudforest at an elevation of 1350m.
To be completed.
Adult behaviour

Males of all Cosmosoma species are attracted by pheromones emitted by the females. As the male approaches a female he hovers above her and discharges a burst of very fine filaments which swirl in the air around her, and envelop her body.

American biologists Conner and Boada found that Cosmosoma males are attracted to Eupatorium plants, and sequestered alkaloids from juices seeping from the stems. Such pyrrolizidine alkaloids are sequestered by a wide variety of butterfly genera including Ithomia, Pteronymia, Lycorea and Danaus; and by several genera of moths in the family Arctiidae. The PAs stored in the bodies of the insects render them toxic or unpalatable to birds, and are a primary defence method in aposematic species.

The researchers found that in the case of Cosmosoma the toxins seemed to be directed mainly at predatory spiders. Moths caught in the webs of Nephila clavipes were cut free from the webs by the spider, but moths which had been deprived of the opportunity to sequester PAs were consumed.

Conner and Boada found that PAs were passed to females via the discharged filaments, and also via spermatophores delivered during copulation. The toxins conveyed to females were found to provide them with protection against predators during the following nights, enabling them to lay their eggs unmolested. It was also demonstrated that the toxins were passed to the eggs, and provided them with protection against ants, Coccinellid beetles ( ladybirds ) and Chrysopid larvae.


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