Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sometimes Nature Rocks My Socks - Cecropia Moths

Last Friday Kurt, Danae, Jordan and Baloo picked me up from the train station in Ottumwa, Iowa. Needing sustenance, we bailed on eco-friendly and headed to the local Sonic Burger place. We like it because they have old-fashioned drive-in service where the "car hop" brings the tray out to the car. We decided that the car was a bit too crowded (Baloo isn't exactly a lap dog) and so poured ourselves out onto the lawn and ate our burgers and fries there. But that isn't the story.

At some point during our meal Danae got up, wandered a few feet away and came back with an amazing moth in her hands. The first photo is from Kurt's phone, and I found the other two online to give you a better idea of just how stunning this creature is.

Check it out - it's a cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia).

Danae and the moth.

LinkCecropia Moth
This photo is from the Simple Gifts Farm blog.

Cecropia Moth
Photo from Bite Me Bait Co. ( I just find 'em, I don't name 'em)

Danae's moth was about 5" across. According to Wikipedia (and we all know that if it's on the web, it's true) this is North America's largest moth. It lives a week at most. We examined (actually, we oooohed and ahhhhhhed) for about five minutes, and then Danae walked it over to a shady fence away from the parking lot, where she left it.

"The Cecropia Moth is a beautiful creature seldom seen by the average citizen...Mating is the only goal of the adult moth (
Alline's note: couldn't that also read "adult male"?). Adult moths come out of their cocoons in spring and summer. Most cocoons will "hatch out" on either May 15th or on the day of the summer solstice. This insures survival of some of the eggs in case of a late frost. The eggs soon hatch in little caterpillars who feed voraciously on the host plant. This could be oaks, cherry, beech and other trees. The caterpillars grow quickly and can attain lengths of 5-6 inches. They are green with different colored spikes protruding from it's back. The colors are quite striking making for an interesting sight. " Bite Me Bait Co.

We saw the moth on June 17th; summer solstice is today, June 21st.

From the Wikipedia page:
"Because the adult moths do not have mouth parts they are unable to eat. As a result, the lifespan for an adult Cecropia moth is generally only 7 to 10 days in the wild, perhaps a little longer or shorter, depending on how much movement the moth makes. For instance, if temperatures are cooler, the moth may remain mostly inactive, which will increase its lifespan."

That's it for now. Go forth and be amazed!