Friday, July 31, 2009


Do you remember the little Six-spot Burnet that I thought was so charming in England? Well, as it turns out, that beautiful moth is NOT for eating. It is laced with cyanide, you see. I just picked up a used copy of the wonderful, big, heavy, and beautiful book For Love of Insects by Thomas Eisner (and with a charming foreword by E. O. Wilson), and came across this fact on page 68, where Eisner is discussing several arthropods that produce cyanogenic secretions.

On the page just before, Eisner has included a photograph of an extremely disgruntled toad who has just spit out a cyanide-producing millipede. His eyes are shut and his tongue is sticking out, the poor little sausage. He looks surprisingly human. Eisner conducted many experiments like this and includes many photographs of disgruntled toads--in fact, one gets the sense that he was interested in seeing all of the awful faces a toad can make when it finds a food disgusting. I was relieved to read that none of these toads suffered any ill effects from munching on the poisonous bugs. No; the toads thought the cyanide-producing bugs tasted awful, but they sometimes ate them anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, no wonder they weren't the least bit spooked by the closeness of our clicking cameras.