Tuesday, July 1, 2014

exquisitely beautiful cecropia

Cecropia moth found at Ijams Nature Center
 Spectacular lepidopteran!

One of the giant silk moths, the cecropia (Hyalophora cecropia), is the largest moth found in North America. The recherché cecropia is in the Saturniidae moth family, a name that honors the queen of the gods in Roman mythology, Juno or Saturnia, the daughter of the god Saturn.

Female cecropias have a wingspan of up to six inches; that's almost as big as your outstretched hand!

Cecropia mating (wiki media)
The adults do not live long, days, two weeks max, so they do not waste time eating, lacking even workable mouth parts and digestive systems. Their sole purpose is to find a mate. 

Females release pheromones that the males sniff/detect from a great distance. Cherchez la femme!

Unlike birds that tend to couple only a second or two — boom, boom — cecropia "Mating begins in the early morning hours and lasts until the evening." (wiki) No need for a Johnny Mathis LP on the stereo here, adult cecropias are born in the mood. 

Once mated, the females spend the rest of their short lives laying eggs. The males may live long enough to mate again, or may fly away to the corner bar to circle dizzily under a street light, disoriented and spent, but we assume they've reached some sort of mothly Nirvana.

Their gastronomical life happens as caterpillars when they eat constantly, primarily maple leaves. I usually only see a ceropia about once a year, someone often finds one and brings it to the nature center to be IDed. Seeing something this exquisitely beautiful will certainly make one's day.

Thoreau wrote, "There is elevation in every hour, as no part of the Earth is so low that the heavens may not be seen from it."

Happy Birthday dear sister.   

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