Westermannia superba – A portrait

This moth was identified by Marcus Ng whom I’d like to thank again here!

If you happen to see a Pixar-Grandma-face on the moth’s back, you are experiencing face pareidolia, and that is totally normal, no worries! Pareidolia is kind of a shortcut in our brain, like a reflex. Identifying faces or recognizing people is important for our social life, so it got automated. But it can also scare the shit out of us, e.g., when we watch a scary movie and then see something face-like in the dark. It can also be one explanation for supernatural experiences. This includes the famous Jesus toasts. You can also count in the early emojis, especially when you used the first generation of handphones, and used punctuation to make them. But hey, why not ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ !? It is no surprise that Wikipedia has them all explained, is it?

Another famous application of pareidolia is the Rorschach test. Your interpretation of an inkblot will be used to look into your thoughts. I imagine that you tend so see something that is somehow related to the dominating thoughts in your mind. So I wonder what it says about me seeing a Pixar-Grandma on the moth’s back!?

Hermann Rorschach was swiss psychiatrist who was born after Sigmund Freud was born, and died before Freud died. Rorschach was born in 1884, and died at the young age of 37, probably with a ruptured appendix. Isn’t it fascinating, how many great achievements were made 100 – 200 years ago, and at the same time how little has changed ever since? Aren’t we still exploring the human mind and body, describing new species of tiny brown moths and even mammals, still fighting diseases, crime and war?

This species of moth does not always have grandma’s portrait on the back, it seems that there are specimen with and without dark spots on the back, and it might just be a coincidence that my moth hat that pattern. I could also be due to the shape, that the upper part looks brighter and resembles grey hair. They live in many areas of South East Asia. W. superba was described in 1823 by the German Entomologist Jacob Huebner. He described a partial metallic or pearl-like gloss on the wings, but also mentioned that the colors were otherwise sober. This moth appeared to be very hairy, and sat neatly on the leaf. If you ask yourself right now why moths are so hairy, I did too! And I was surprised about the answer. It is kind of obvious, but I wouldn’t have thought of it. It keeps them warm. Nocturnal animals have to deal with lower temperatures. Makes sense.

I find it remarkable that there are people like J. Huebner who find fascination in small, brown moths, or other “ordinary” creatures. Many entomologist spent their entire life describing insects. That’s amazing! By learning about our environment we also learn how it works and how to protect it better.

Oh and I guess when you made it to the end of this post, you don’t have Mottephobia, the fear of moths, do you?

Westermannia superba