Friday, May 29, 2015

Another Polyphemus Moth Earns Her Wings

One evening late last summer (September 6th, 2014), as I walked out the back door, I noticed something interesting on the lawn - a large green caterpillar.  Specifically, it was a Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) caterpillar.  Earlier in the summer, we had released an adult female Polyphemus that we had reared from a caterpillar the previous summer (2013).  Although we have absolutely no proof, it's cool to think that the caterpillar that I found in our yard was one of the offspring of the moth that we released.

The summer 2014 Polyphemus Caterpillar - photo by Shara LeValley

The caterpillar went into a cocoon after less than twenty-four hours.  It remained in that cocoon for the next 234 days!  Last night when we came home from work we realized that it had finally emerged.  The moth that emerged was another female - this one was in such a hurry that she actually laid a few eggs inside the enclosure.  Without breeding these eggs will never hatch.

After dinner we took her down the street to a local park for release. 

Polyphemus Moth in hand

Female Polyphemus Moth - the false eye spots are probably used to deter predators

We each snapped a few photographs and then placed her up in a willow tree.  With luck she will attract a mate and produce a new generation this summer.

Upon returning home we took a closer look at the cocoon that she emerged from.  Its hard to believe that that moth with a swollen abdomen the width of one of my fingers crawled out of a hole a lillt larger than the diameter of a pencil, but she did.

The cocoon was attached between a leaf and the side of a mush container.  You can see some of the eggs that she deposited before release.

The hole in the end of the cocoon from which the moth emerged

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