Moths, So Beautiful, So Short Lived

mothThe Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), is a member of the Saturniidae (giant silk moths) family.   This one was found resting in a potted fern on the patio.  I certainly hoped it was only resting, and would be up and flying again when night fell.  Sadly, it wasn’t.  Its very few days of life as a beautiful moth now passed.  We decided to leave it right where it is.  We won’t be pulling it out for a photo shoot.  This is the first large moth of this type I’ve seen.  Perhaps its presence is an invitation to come out of doors more in the night time hours to appreciate the beauty of the night.

 moth 002Its name is Greek.  It is named for the Polymephus Cyclops of mythology due to the “eye” spots on its wings.

This is a short lived creature who lives to mate.  Although they will eat over 80,000 times their own weight as a caterpillar, they aren’t able to eat at all once they emerge as an adult moth.

The female emits a pherome as soon as she emerges from the chrysalis which calls males to her from miles away.  She patiently waits near where she emerged until they find her, generally around midnight on the same day she leaves the chrysalis.  The mating goes on for several hours, and then she flies off to lay her eggs.

She and the males will both die in a few days because they are unable to eat or digest food.  They live off of food stored in their bodies from their days as a caterpillar, and then they die.

 moth 003
The eggs will hatch in about 10 days.  The eggs are generally laid on the leaves of host trees, and the preferred food of the caterpillars are leaves from hardwood trees such as oak, hickory, and maple.  Caterpillars emerging in late summer will spent winter in their chrysalis, emerging in late spring to begin the cycle again.

Here is another beautiful moth which showed up this week and spent the day resting on a window screen.  This one is definitely still alive.  Its the first pink moth I ever remember seeing.


Dryocampa rubicunda, the Rosy Maple Moth.  The caterpillars prefer to feed on maple leaves.  This is another moth which mates the same night it leaves the chrysalis.  Again, the adults are unable to eat, and die soon after mating and laying eggs.

For more information, and better photos, please see:

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Lifelong teacher and gardener.

4 responses to “Moths, So Beautiful, So Short Lived

  1. elizabeth

    wow, am I ever ,impressed,grateful and completely interested in alll your knowledge, for living in a forest is very brave indeed…….so incredibly appreciative of people around the globe that still care for nature as it is inevitably diminishing(but doesn’t have to be ) … in addition as your zones and climate are completely different from where I live ,northern Ontario. I love reading about your endeavors , and just everyday life . I don’t live in a forest but I do invite it into my backyard ,I have a huge willow tree that im sure inhabits a small fortune of birds , and beside that a small meadow that I have thought about bringing life to??? ,it doesn’t belong to us but is abandoned????? as im also currently renting, I too along with my husband have made a lot of changes and have given a helping hand to the birds that live here in the huge blue spuces we have in front along with some feeders, and such. nice to have read some of your posts 2hrs worth lol and time has silently passed me,gotta go but ill be back.. ahe a wonderful day,my friend

    • So wonderful to hear from you, Elizabeth! We share a name as well as our love for the birds, trees, and all of nature. Where you live sounds so beautiful. I think it is very brave to live so far north where winters are harsh and summers brief 😉 Our home is in a forest, but it is a developed community with neighbors all around, if many out of sight on large lots. I share your appreciation for everyone around the globe who still care for nature and help our at risk species of plants and animals survive. Have you heard of “Guerrilla Gardening?” It is an international movement to reclaim lost spaces, whether in cities or the countryside. There are some books and articles available about Guerrilla Gardening which you might find interesting. Many caring people have taken the initiative to bring life and beauty back to unclaimed and uncared for land. It sounds like you and your husband may be joining them 😉 Thank you so very much for visiting Forest Garden today! I hope you will return, and appreciate you letting me know that you enjoyed reading from the site. Best wishes and giant hugs, WG (aka Elizabeth)

  2. Forest So Green

    I have never seen a pink moth. Interesting post. Annie

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