I know what you are going to say: “Moths have no blood.” That’s splitting hairs though—moths have liquid called hemolymph that performs similar function as our blood; it’s not red because there is no hemoglobin. In moths, lymph delivers nutrients throughout the body, while oxygen is delivered via the tracheal system straight to the moth’s tissues.

In any case, from the point of view of blood- (lymph-) sucking parasites, such as no-see-ums – the biting midges in the family Ceratopogonidae – there is little difference. They are not after oxygen; they are after the aforementioned nutrients.

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Biting midges on the Tropical Swallowtail Moth, Vietnam.

When I was photographing moths in Vietnam a few years ago and happened to look closely at the resulting photos of the Tropical Swallowtail Moth (Lyssa zampa), I discovered some biting midges (genus Forcipomyia) sucking lymph from the moth’s abdomen and wing veins. Looking at the swollen, yellow bellies of the midges, there was little doubt about what they were after.

Biting midge on an erebid, French Guiana

Last week, I was looking through photos I had taken of moths in French Guiana more recently. I was surprised to find more of such lymph-feeding midges on one of the large erebid moths that visited the blacklight setup. Both the Vietnamese and South American victims of the midges were very large moths, with wingspans of five to six inches.

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A mite feeding on a sphinx moth, French Guiana

Among other such post-processed discoveries were mites feeding on an equally large sphinx moth. What the mites get out of their association with the Sphingidae is not entirely understood, but they are frequently found on these fast-flying moths.

To view larger and additional images of midges and mites on tropical moths, see the gallery below.