Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My New Promethea Moths

This afternoon a friend tagged me on a Facebook photo of two large moths. The photo was taken by her relative in Menomonee Falls. My friend, who knows of my moth-fixation, was hoping I'd be able to help ID her cousin's find. I knew right away from the photos that the moths were either Cecropia, Polyphemus, or Promethea. I asked for more wing shots and then determined that they are Promethea moths -- a kind of Giant Silk Moth that is a relative of Actias luna.

I mentioned that my friend's cousin should try to save the eggs of the female moth (in the picture, the two were mating). She said raising moths wasn't really her cup of tea, but mentioned that I could claim the eggs -- and the moths -- if I so desired. It took me about ten minutes to decide whether it would be worth it to drive out to Menomonee Falls from Tosa to retrieve the moths. The decision was made when my friend's cousin told me that to prevent them from flying off while I was en route to her house, she coaxed them onto a stick and then put them in a five-gallon bucket with a screen top. "I'll be over right after dinner," I said.

I am now delighted to have in my brief possession a beautiful mating pair of Promethea moths. The male has wings that are a rich, dark brown (almost black) with waves of lighter browns on the back and more reddish colors underneath. Sadly, his wings are now tattered from all the time spent in flight, searching for a mate. The female's wings are in better shape at this point; they're a beautiful reddish-brown, with dots and waves of white and brown and other lovely accents. The wingspan is between three and four inches.

Naturally, I turned to the Canadian moth guru Bill Oehlke for information on how to rear Promethea offspring. I'm hoping the female will lay her eggs on a paper towel I placed in the five gallon bucket.

Here are two photos. The first is the best shot I could get of the active-but-worn-out male and the impregnated female; the second is a close-up of the female.

These two Promethea join the nine-plus Lunas that have eclosed over the last couple of days inside my moth terrarium. I already have eggs from one mating pair of Lunas and look forward to raising a new generation of caterpillars -- hopefully two kinds!

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