Jennifer Thompson had the great fortune to stumble into this pair of Cecropias in western Ohio, and made the spectacular image above. Giant silkmoths such as this species, for all of their beauty and grandeur, live for only a week or so. Their sole purpose is to find each and mate, and these two moths have obviously succeeded in this task. The smaller bodied male is on the left; he has much more grandiose antennae - they resemble little ferns. Now that he has accomplished his biological duty, his time will be short indeed. After she dumps her eggs on suitable host plants, the female's number will soon be up.
Cecropias and other large silkmoths find each other via pheromones released by the female. The male uses highly acute sensory receptors in its elaborate antennae to pick up the trail of the female's airborne scent, and male moths can supposedly detect female pheromones from a mile or more. Place a fresh female in a paper bag, outside, and watch in amazement as a male or males eventually materialize from the gloom of night and alight on the bag.
Seabrooke Leckie holds a beautiful male Cecropia; she and others found it recently in Pennsylvania. Her hand provides scale for the massive bat-sized insect. Ms. Leckie would have been especially delighted to see and handle this moth, as they are particularly near and dear to her.
Peterson Field Guide to Moths. This guide is hot off the presses and is garnering scads of positive attention. Moths are beautiful, complex, and fascinating creatures, and until the release of this book there was no real user-friendly publication for identifying them.
New River Birding & Nature Festival in West Virginia, and we were able to trap moths on two different evenings. Her book was most helpful in determining the identity of the various animals that we captured. In this photo, a temporarily detained deep yellow euchlaena rests in a vial over its image in the field guide.
Moths play an incredibly important role in our various ecosystems. They pollinate, provide food for predators such as bats, and were it not for their caterpillars, many of our songbirds would go extinct. Besides, they are one of the most beautiful groups of all of our insects, and that's saying a lot. If you wish to learn more about the world of moths, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Seabrooke's book. You can order one HERE, or HERE.