September 3, 2012

Early Morning Visitors

A few days after the visit from the luna moth, I opened the front door to find this:


Like the luna moths, I see these occasionally but only as a wing or two, after the cats have caught and eaten the moth.


About ten years ago, while living in Michigan, we discovered a very large moth. We were homeschooling, so researching and learning about it became the day's project. It was a cecropia moth, one of the big silkmoths. We were fortunate enough to watch it lay eggs, and after we kept watch over those eggs for about two weeks, they hatched into tiny little caterpillars and crawled off to begin their new lives. We learned that the adult moths do not eat, and live for only a few days, their mission just to mate and lay eggs.

I thought that my morning visitor was a cecropia, but when I looked online later to double-check the spelling, I realized it was not. (I know you moth-aficionados have already screamed at your screens that it is NOT a cecropia.) It's a polyphemus moth, also a silkmoth and from the same family, saturniidae. Polyphemus are a lighter brown color, and have different markings, but are the same relative size (BIG!)


So, with a big beautiful moth on my screen door, I did what anyone else would do - I grabbed my camera.


After snapping a few quick shots in case it flew away, I was able to spend a little more time on my photos. I moved slightly, looked down to make sure I wasn't going to fall off the porch (I keep hinting to hubby that I'd really like a handrail but it hasn't happened yet, and one of the dogs did fall off a few weeks ago), and gasped when I saw a second moth on the side of the house. TWO!


One of the indoor cats, Tink, was very interested in the moth and tried to climb up the screen. (You can tell from the condition of the screen in these photos that the cats do that a lot.) She knocked the moth off the door onto the porch. Those are 2x6's, by the way, to give you an idea of the moth's size.



To keep them safe from the outside cats, I coaxed them into a basket and moved them both to the bed of the pickup truck.


One was more active than the other, and even climbed up my boot, my clothes, my arm and onto my hand. I wanted a photo of that but it was my right hand and my camera is right-handed. The moth took off soon after; I watched it land in an oak tree at the edge of the yard. The other flew away later in the day.


Their wings were crisp and clean so they were both very young moths. I'm hoping there will be eggs laid soon.


The butterfliesandmoths.org page says that silkmoths eat the leaves of apple and plum trees, and we have some of both. Perhaps that's what attracts them to our yard?

Then, two days later, this was on the door:


You can see that this is an older moth. It's been around for a few days; the edges of its wings are frayed.


The color is muted, and the markings aren't as sharp and defined.


Once again, I moved it to the safety of the truck bed, out of sight of the outside cats. This one was content to rest in my hand, and I made sure I picked it up with my left hand so I could get this photo.


An hour later, the moth had warmed up, dried up from the dewy night, and had flown off...



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