An insect’s surprising way of seeing, and other revelations

Research points to a greener way to make cement, a therapeutic use for magic mushrooms, and a caterpillar that sees colors with more than its eyes.

Peppered moths are masters of camouflage. In the larval stage, they can change the color of their skin to blend into their settings—even without seeing those surroundings, a new study found. After raising more than 300 peppered moth larvae, U.K. researchers obscured the vision of some with black paint (which the larvae later shed, unharmed). The larvae were placed in boxes containing white, green, brown, or black sticks, and given time to adapt. When the researchers opened the boxes, they found that nearly all the caterpillars, with or without vision, had changed their body colors to match the sticks in their box. The researchers then moved the caterpillars into new boxes containing sticks of two different colors, and about 80 percent of the insects chose to rest on sticks that matched their body color. The researchers say their findings provide strong evidence that peppered moth larvae are capable of dermal photoreception—seeing with their skin. —Annie Roth

The process for making cement creates so much greenhouse gas that if it were a country, it’d be the third largest emitter on Earth. That statistic is from MIT, where scientists devised a process that would produce cement using electricity, rather than by burning fossil fuels. In a water electrolyzer, current to the electrodes creates hydrogen and oxygen gases, an acid, and a base. When limestone is added to the acid, it’s dissolved and decarbonated—loses its CO2—and then can be used to make a key cement ingredient. —AR

A male Creatonotos moth inflates his bushy behind only at mating time, and for one purpose: to lure females. The tubular organs are coated in bristles that emit pheromones. The more toxic plants the males eat as larvae, the bigger and more potent these organs will be. —Maya Wei-Haas

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