Myths and legends, even some of the wildest, most unbelievable stories, often have roots in real events or phenomena. Same is true for imaginary beasts. Ancient sailors believed sea monsters truly roamed the waters. Not that ridiculous since we know animals like giant squids exist. Now scientists have found a bug that is eerily reminiscent of a mythical figure. A newly discovered moth really does look like the Mothman.
West Virginia’s Mothman legend dates back to 1966 when gravediggers claimed to see a giant creature, a “brown human being,” quickly moving between trees. Days later others reported seeing a winged-beast with glowing red eyes standing as tall as seven feet. From there the tale of the Mothman grew, with hundreds more saying they saw it too. It wasn’t thought to be a benevolent beast either. People blamed the Mothman for death and destruction everywhere it “appeared.”
The recently found leafhopper moth, named Phlogis kibalensis, doesn’t exactly match that description. But the insect does resemble the fabled legend in unsettling ways. It has a silver, metallic-looking body and bright red eyes. It’s as though this bug served as the real-life inspiration for the Mothman statue of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
The good news at least is that researchers found the bug (which we first heard about at Gizmodo) a long way from West Virginia. It hails from Kibale National Park, Uganda. (The park gave the moth gets its name, even though “Mothmanmoth” was right there!) The team’s findings, published in a paper at Zootaxa, says the moth differs from the other similar species in “the shape of the sub-apical lateral processes, as well as in style shape and some aspects of colouration.” It’s also the first time anyone has spotted a leafhopper insect since 1969.
…Which is also when Mothman sightings stopped. Oh no.
Look, myths and legends often have roots in real, easily explained natural events and animals. But if people in West Virginia suddenly start seeing a giant winged creature again we’re going to get real worried.