Back to Nature (Published on - Oct. 4, 2006)
Keep the cut flowers – a moth would be wonderful
Photo by Rick Tremmel
The giant silk moth, Antheraea polyphemus.
Yes, I love the romantic gift of flowers, and oh I adore chocolate, and what girl can resist dazzling jewelry, but unlike most women I’m also elated when gifted a deceased bird (in no decomposed condition), a wing, a jar with jewel-like insect, a handful of freshly picked wildflowers, bleached bones, snake skins, seed pods, or remarkable stones.

One evening after I arrived home from work, my stepson, Alex met me at the garage door with a big smile, “I have a present for you.” He was tugging at my arm as I put down my books and purse upon the table. I knew this had to be something special. He guided me into his room pointing to his rock collection box. Ummm, I thought, a new rock. But then he cautioned, “Open the box carefully. It’s still alive,” grinning even larger. Carefully I peaked in.

There inside was a large, brown moth with furry body, beautiful eyespots on the two hind wings and magnificent antennae. We brought out our guide books and were fascinated to discover that this moth’s common name is: giant silk moth.

“Where did you find this, Alex?” I inquired.

“It was fluttering around the lights at work and then landed. I had quite the time catching it, while being careful not to harm it,” he noted.

We discovered that the bright green, silver spotted, 3- to 4-inch, giant silk moth caterpillar wraps itself within a curled, dried leaf and then spins a large, silk cocoon. Once the cocoon hardens the caterpillar remains inside for a full season, spring to fall or fall to spring, before emerging into this most handsome moth. The large eyespots of the moth serve as protection, appearing like owl eyes to frighten away predators. The undersides of this moth’s wings look like dead leaves, enabling the moth camouflage.

Unfortunately, the giant silk moth is decreasing in numbers. Squirrels are likely predators consuming the pupae of giant silk moths, as well, are parasitic insects such as wasps and flies. These insects lay eggs upon or within the caterpillars of the giant silk moth then hatch to feed upon the caterpillar’s insides.

The giant silk moth, Antheraea polyphemus, is nocturnal. It hunts its prey naturally by moonlight, but also may be distracted and found near unnatural lighted areas. It lives in broadleaf woods, citrus orchards and sometimes can be found around parks and swamps.

“Do you like it?” Alex inquired. “Yes!” my beaming smile told all. What better present could I receive? A lot of thoughtfulness, care and joy went into bringing this spectacular moth home for me. Ladies, keep the store bought flowers for yourselves. Give me a giant silk moth brought home with a smile any day … well, maybe with a wee bit of chocolate too, OK, hint hint … back to nature.

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