Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rescued silk moth UPDATED

A soft knock, knock, knock sounded on our front door just a while ago. Pamela, a friend from Blanco, had just rescued a huge moth from the local grocery store parking lot. Could I take a look at it? Sure, I told her.

Poor moth. Pamela was right. As you can see by its tattered wings, this moth has survived some rough days. 

Some quick online research indicates that this is a Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia). 

In looking up this silk moth species, I've already learned some new things about moths: 

1) Antennae determine the sex of a silk moth. Males have very feather or fern leaf-like antennae and are able to detect a female's pheromones from over a mile away. Females may be identified by relatively narrow antennae, especially when compared to that of the male. (Previous links connect to illustrative photos.)

2) At this stage, Cecropia moths do not have a mouth part as an adult and survive on body fat stored during the caterpillar stage. 

I believe Pamela's rescue is a female, who may be sending out pheromones in hopes of enticing a male to find her and mate. (See my September 2010 post on just such an incident, "Catch up time...") On that note, I'd better find her a possible larval plant, which are the leaves of various trees and shrubs, including apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak and willow. On some moth sites, wisteria and Virginia creeper are also listed as host plants for this species. We have some of the latter! But since it's windy today, I'll wait and put her somewhere safe outside tomorrow. 

Thanks, Pamela!

UPDATE MARCH 25, 2016–I let the moth go before dark last night. First, I'd had her out for a bit on my hand. She couldn't fly. Sad. Then after supper, I took her outside and set her on an oak, and she fluttered to the ground. She made so much noise that I was afraid one of our cats (shhhhh...we have three outside cats) would hear and go investigate. I scooped her up and set her up in a live oak.

It's after noon, and I checked on her awhile ago. No sign of her. I did the best I could!

Can you find the moth in this photo? She blended into the leaves VERY well! (Hint: top left quandrant)

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