Wednesday, May 06, 2009
This guy came into my life in late August of last year. A polyphemus caterpillar was found in my front yard (if you're not familiar with their appearance, think Heimlich in A Bug's Life). I captured it, intending to photograph it the next day. He had his own plan and spun a coccoon overnight.
Shortly thereafter, I lost my job to a corporate downsizing and Mr. Polyphemus became my layoff buddy. The coccoon was kept in my garage for safekeeping in hopes that I might get some pictures when the moth emerged. He and I both made it through the winter. I brought him inside a couple of months ago to await the blessed event. Other than a brief stint as a cat toy, the moth pupa spent a comfortable, uneventful stay. I even did some picture taking while it snoozed.
After the cat incident, I kept Mr. Polyphemus on a high shelf in my work area in the basement. I was working away yesterday afternoon when I started to hear a scratching noise. I turned to the shelf and noticed antennae sticking out of the pupal case. I quickly set up a studio space in my garage (got a small bucket of sand, stuck a fallen tree branch into it for a perch, set up a black foam board background -- all on the top of a small freezer in the garage -- set the wriggling pupa at the base of the branch) and waited to see things progress.
Unfortunately for Mr. P, he had a very difficult time emerging from the shell. The struggle removed some of the hair from his abdomen. Even worse, his wings were only partially emerged for a time, long enough to cut off the flow of fluids necessary to expand them to full size. Instead of the majestic six-inch wingspan I was expecting to photograph, his wings never got any longer than the length of his body, dooming his mission of finding a female with which to mate.
I let Mr. moth out into my backyard to live out his final days. Poyphemus moths do not have working mouth parts, so they do not eat. They only live for a few days after emerging and just have one thing on their to-do list. This guy's problem is going to make it difficult for him to schedule any dates with the ladies.
Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.