19 February 2009

What big eyes you have

A few months ago one of our Green Cay volunteers brought in an Io Moth caterpillar (Automeris io). We put it on display in the nature center and slowly the caterpillar grew until one day we found it in it's papery thin cocoon.

We figured that the moth was going to overwinter but last week it decided to emerge. Io moths are sexually dimorphic with the females having reddish brown forewings, body, and legs and the males having bright yellow forewings, body, and legs. Both have one big black to bluish eyespot with some white in the center, on each hindwing, a defense mechanism meant to frighten off potential predators. Our moth was a female and boy was she a beauty to behold!

In the afternoon I took her outside for releasing and she wasted no time warming up her wings and preparing for flight. After about 10 minutes of quickly undulating her wings up and down, she took a short flight into a patch of dense Milkweed. She was still there when I left work; I hope she found safety there from all the birds flying about.

If she's lucky she'll find a mate, lay some eggs, and then wait to die. Io moths emerge in the adult form with vestigal mouthparts. So after reproducing their life is over. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks with this moth and get to know her.


Sharon said...

Wow, what a magnificent moth!!

slybird said...

That is a fantastic moth. What a lucky experience :)

Anonymous said...

An amazing set of photographs. It reminds me of a Cicada I caught coming out of its shell.

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