Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Moth Day

Polyphemus moth cocoon
I found this cocoon on the ground, while poking around in the woods. It was a nice clean white when I found it (later I read that they turn tan after the moth emerges. How? Why? I don't know). It had some heft to it (meaning there was probably someone inside), and it looked a little moist on one end. I had a tiny feeling of memory of reading that right before the moth emerges, they secrete something that softens the cocoon, to make it easier to get out, but I didn't know what I was seeing; maybe it was just damp from lying on the ground. I put it in my shirt pocket.

I wanted to hike to a different spot, and I went back to the car to regroup. It was too warm to leave it in the car, and too dangerous for the cocoon to drag it around in my shirt pocket, so I found a nearby tree and laid it on the ground nearby, out of sight. I came back a half-hour later and it had emerged!

Here he is, well-camouflaged near the base of the tree.
Antheraea polyphemus
It's a big, fat, beautiful male Polyphemus moth! Those huge feathery antennae are a sure sign it's a male. Nothing better for catching a female's pheromones on the wind, they tell me.

And to that poor lady I've never seen before who was going to her car with her three yellow labs while I was taking 136 pictures of this, who I told to "Put your dogs in the car and come here! You have to see this!," who was very good-natured and did put her dogs in the car and come over to see it, and took pictures with her cellphone and everything, and seemed to really enjoy it and thanked me sincerely for showing her, I'd like to say, "Thank you for indulging me, a perfect stranger, and sharing my excitement." 

*Edit: I met some people on a trail 2-3 years later and we chatted briefly about the woods and our hikes, and she said, "You look familiar--are you the moth woman I met at Gans Creek?"--and I was.
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