Friday, June 26, 2020

Polyphemus Moth

On 23 June 2020, I was walking across a suburban parking lot. I stumbled upon this Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus. Polyphemus refers to the one-eyed cyclops who invited Odysseus to lunch. The moth has a large eye in the center of each hind wing. Antheraea is derived from the Greek for  flowery, brilliant color. Presumably the moth “eyes” discourage predators. If I were a flycatcher, I would think twice about attacking this moth. Some variation exists in this moth's appearance. Note the amazing, comb-like antenna, which are used to sense sex pheromones.

Polyphemus Moths are common across North America. I am surprised I have never seen one before. They are found in every Canadian Province and all but two southwestern American states. This moth inhabits woodlands, orchards and wetlands. If they were more common, this species might cause damage to trees. They may cause damage to California plum orchards. Caterpillars eat entire leaves, and then cut off the leaf stem so it falls to the ground—perhaps to eliminate signs of feeding (Butterflies and moths).

Adults are attracted to night lights. Adults do not feed. I came upon this moth around 9:30 in the morning. This individual was in ragged shape. Probably it survived the night. Usually adults emerge from the cocoons in the late afternoon. Mating occurs during the ensuing 24 hours, usually that evening.

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