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Radar-Evading Moths
Jul 1, 2008

Members of the animal kingdom are equipped with amazing features. Every species has a particular gift for communication, feeding, or defense. They communicate through various means, such as smell, vibration, sound, light, and heat. For example, fireflies use light for communication and ants use different smells, whereas crickets or grasshoppers use sound. Certain insects which have no separate organs to produce sound just flap their wings or vibrate certain parts of their body to communicate. Receiving these messages is no less important than sending them, since the capacity to perceive the sound waves in the environment is an important aspect of defense against enemies. Insects use sensor hairs that are distributed over different parts of their body to receive sounds produced by their fellow insects or other animals. These organelles are made up of a hair and sensor cell, and they are usually located in groups. The vibrations detected in the environment are transmitted to the relevant neurons. Afterwards, a responsive signal is produced according to the sound received. In addition to these hairs, certain insects have been equipped with a pair of more complex (tympanal) hearing organs. The frequency of the sounds they can receive depends on the environmental conditions and the species of the insect. For example, crickets can hear within a frequency range that is very close to that of human ear (100-15,000 Hz), and grasshoppers can hear sounds of far higher frequencies (100-100,000 Hz).

There is no similarity between the systems through which insects produce or receive sounds. Furthermore, even the frequencies of the sounds they produce or hear may not be the same. The wisdom behind this might be that the receptors of some insects are devised in a way that will enable them to detect sounds produced by their enemies. Moths can be given as a typical example of this. They can detect sounds between 1,000-140,000 Hz. Their sensitivity is best between frequencies of 20,000-40,000 Hz, but interestingly, most moths do not have any organs to produce sounds at these frequencies. In other words, moths do not seem to use their tympanal organs in order to communicate with one another. Discovering the real function of the tympanal organ of the moths has taken researchers quite a long time.

The mysterious relation

Every being in nature is created to assume a role in the ecological balance and no creature has been equipped with a useless organ. Researchers have discovered that the tympanal organ plays an important role in defense. Moths spend the day resting in corners and only become active after sunset. Researchers have come to the conclusion that they are not searching for food, since the nutrition they need is stored in their bodies during the larva stage. Thanks to this blessing, moths do not spend their short life span in search of food. The aim of their night flights is reproduction.

The essential duty of moths is to find the plants where they will lay their eggs and on which their larvae will feed. As slow moving animals, it is almost impossible for the moth larvae to go and find their own food. As all creatures are provided in accordance with their need, these helpless larvae are born on their food. Another amazing fact about their nutrition is that the moth larvae eat their own protein-rich eggshells before eating leaves. Research has shown that those larvae which eat their eggshells are more resistant to environmental conditions.

As the moths try to continue their species by laying their eggs in the darkness, some other creatures try to continue their own existence by feeding on the moths. Bats eat insects and are also active at night. As is well known, bats fly comfortably in the dark thanks to the radar system they have been equipped with. This innate system is perfectly devised to enable bats to pinpoint a tiny insect flying through the darkness, and moths are a prey that is easily spotted by bats. The astonishing fact is that the moths’ sensitivity to the sound waves is perfect for picking up the sounds emitted by bats. The moths are able not only to detect the bats, but also to judge their distance from the frequency of the waves. If the distance is greater than 30 meters, the moth leaves the area immediately. If the bat is closer however, the moth takes a zigzag course or tries to avoid danger by plunging down and staying still.

The balance here is so perfect that while bats are skilled enough hunters to obtain provision, the moths are good defenders and are able to continue their existence. Both species fulfill their roles in balance with creation. Some bats are able to catch some moths, but there is no excess on either side. Nothing is left to blind chance in nature; not only did the Creator equip the bat with a perfect radar system, He did not leave the moth helpless but granted them perfect receptors to rescue themselves from bats. If it were not for the Power that established the mysterious balances in the universe, how would a bat find its way through the darkness and how would moths be protected from extinction?

Every different type of moth which forms another ring in the chain of food in nature lays its eggs on different plants. If moths did not feed on certain fast-growing plants and if their growth is not kept under control, these plants would invade the space of other plants and wipe them out. The moths and other creatures that feed on plants ensure that no one plant is allowed to upset the balance of the chain of nutrition. Similarly, the perfect balance established between bats and moths prove that nothing in this universe is left on its own. When confronted by the perfect order in nature, one cannot help but think about the verse:

You do not see any fault or incongruity in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look yet again: can you see any rifts?

Then look again and yet again, (and however often you do so, with whatever instruments to aid your looking) your sight will fall back to you dazzled (by the splendor of God’s creation), and awed and weakened (being unable to discern any flaw to support any excuse for claiming that there could be any sharing in the dominion of the universe). (Mulk 67:3)