Most larger nocturnal moths ('macrolepidoptera') are equipped with ultrasonic tympanic organs (ears), which give them a considerable survival advantage in encounters with echolocating bats. However, 4.2% of the Scandinavian species lack such organs, and are presumably deaf. Our results show that the earless species are larger and have higher wing loadings than the tympanate forms. They also fly with higher body temperatures. They are thus adapted for fast and erratic flight, and may represent an alternative evolutionary pathway to efficient bat defence, but one that is energetically more demanding. We suggest that the tympanic organs in nocturnal moths were key innovations that 'released' their bearers from the energetic constraints imposed by a high flight body temperature, necessary to avoid bats, and probably set the stage for subsequent adaptive radiation of slow flying forms.