Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Polyphemus Moth - Antheraea polyphemus

Nancy Miller sent this picture, taken on the porch floor of her daughter's home.  Nancy says, "It was so beautiful I wanted to bring it home with me."

The Polyphemus Moth is probably the commonest giant silk moth. It was named after the one-eyed giant Polyphemus of Greek mythology because of the large eyespots on its hindwings. The accordion-shaped larva feeds on a variety of trees and shrubs, especially on oak, hickory, elm, maple, and birch. The rounded, tough, parchment-like cocoon is found hanging on the food plant.  Full-grown polyphemus moth caterpillars are nearly 3 inches long and are bright green with a brown head. On each angular body segment are six yellow-orange tubercles with small bristles. On most abdominal segments a yellow line runs through the brown spiracle and connects the first and second tubercles found on each side of the body.  The Polyphemus Moth was University of Maryland Entomologist, Dr. Raupp's, Bug of the Week on July 14, 2008.  He had this to say about the eyespots on the wings:

Scientists believe that these eyespots aid in defense of insects and other animals in several ways. Eyespots may resemble the eyes of a potential predator’s own predators.  Moths and butterflies are tasty fare for many birds, but in turn, birds are meals for larger winged predators such as owls. Eyespots and color patterns on the wings of some moths resemble the face of an owl. Imagine the terror of a bird about to eat what appears to be a harmless moth, when suddenly the hungry bird confronts the face of an owl. A second way that eyespots may aid in defense is to direct an attack away from vulnerable parts of the body. Some predators attack the head of the victim where maximum damage results. False eyespots on less critical parts of the body such as wings may steer a first strike away from a lethal spot and provide time for the intended prey to escape.
Although a single individual can consume relatively large amounts of foliage, their numbers rarely reach levels that would warrant control.

Nancy also sends along this picture of a Tiger Swallowtail, with the caption: "Tattered and torn but still beautiful. So sad, such a short life span."

1 comment:

  1. Now that is a beauty. I've never seen one around my house.