Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The birds and the moths

Matt's snagged a few cocoons over the last couple of months in the hope of seeing a butterfly or moth emerge. So far, we've hatched two giant silkworm moths -- we think they are promethea moths. The first to emerge was a male, which we determined by the enormous antennae that he uses to detect the pheremones sent out by female moths -- supposedly a male promethea will travel more than a mile to get to a female he's detected. We took several dozen pictures and let him go.

A couple of days later a female emerged -- redder than the male, and with smaller antennae. These moths don't eat -- they don't even have mouth parts -- so we didn't feel too guilty about putting her in an aquarium on the porch to see if we could attract some males. First day, nothing happened. In the afternoon of the second day, Matt came rushing into the kitchen: we've got moths! There were two males frantically trying to get into the cage. A third one came along not too much later, with tattered wings.

We opened up the aquarium but the males didn't go in, so we took the female out -- but then she flew away. A robin quickly went for her, but the moth got away. Did she make it? We'll only know if we see her crazy-looking progeny, lime green with many bright neon horns, later this spring...