Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Luna Moths and White Birch Seeds

Sadly, my last living Luna moth is near death. All the others are gone, having petered out indoors or flown away. We released the beautiful #5 two days ago -- he happily flew off, never to be seen again. Now I'm left with three dead moths, one clinging to life, and two trays full of tiny eggs.

I'm not sure if all the eggs are fertile. I never saw #4 mate, so I separted the eggs of #3 and #4 as best I could, simply to find out if #4 did the deed in the middle of the night, or if she simply dumped her unfertilized eggs. Either way, she is now desperately laying the last of her eggs with whatever remaining energy she has. I've been dreaming about Luna moths for about two years, so at this point I kind of feel a little girl with nothing to do on the rainy Sunday after her birthday. Blah.

It's not really over, though: the big question now is whether the eggs will hatch, and, if they do, whether we'll be able to find leaves for them to eat this early in the spring. I'm crossing my fingers that we'll have White Birch, Sweet Gum and/or Black Walnut tree leaves before we have Luna moth caterpillars. I have a Black Walnut and my neighbor has a White Birch, but I have no idea what a Sweet Gum looks like. Guess I'll have to spend some time at Google Image Search to do an ID.

In the meantime, I manged to clip some seeds from my neighbor's White Birch. I read online that white birch seeds can be germinated under light; while the process described in the aforelinked .pdf is elaborate and complicated, I'm hoping that my oversimplified method of letting the seeds dry out under plant lights and then sowing indoors will work. This experiment, if successful, will involve an attempt to grow white birch in containers, outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. I would prune to control height and possibly use the leaves as a food source for future generations of Luna moths, mostly to supplement outdoor tree leaf harvesting.

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