Sunday, April 30, 2017

Never on Sunday?

So I sat down to practice a little piano, and looked out the window.

"Huh." I thought. "There's a luna moth."

(These are not all THAT uncommon around here, and as the caterpillars will eat elm leaves, I see them from time to time - I assume they fed on my elm tree, went into a cocoon, and emerged).

I thought, maybe I should get a picture. So I went out to get one.

Luna moth(s)

And then I realized, wait, that's not just one moth there.

Huh. What could they be doing?

what are they doing?

My first assumption was "making more luna moth caterpillars" but I don't know that I've ever seen insect mating that looked quite like that (face-to-face, so to speak).

(UPDATE: they are probably not mating, probably are newly-eclosed-from-cocoon adults)

I don't THINK they are huddling for warmth (it's in the 40s here right now) because insects don't produce their own body heat, so huddling for warmth in that case is useless. I'm guessing they arrived there as a convenient roost in the bad weather/when it got cold because some of the only things flowering (the hanging baskets I have) are nearby.

(These things sadly only live for about a week, so I guess they have to make hay while the sun shines. so to speak).

I contemplated capturing then and bringing them inside to warm up, but I was afraid of damaging them - hopefully when the sun comes around in a couple hours they will warm up enough to be okay.

WAIT: alternate possibility, from Wikipedia: "Adults eclose, or emerge from their cocoons, in the morning. Their wings are very minute when they first emerge and they must enlarge them by pumping bodily liquids through them. During this time, their wings will be soft and they must climb somewhere safe to wait for their wings to harden before they can fly away. This process takes about 2 hours to complete" Maybe they're brand new ones that emerged this morning - it could very well be the caterpillars dropped to the ground to pupate under my abelia bush. They will also feed on walnut so I suppose it's possible they could have grown up eating pecan leaves - this is right under my pecan tree. (A little more research of butterfly sites indicates that yes, the caterpillars WILL eat pecan leaves - so that's probably the origin of these two)

If they ARE newly-eclosed adults, all the better I didn't try to bring them indoors - I might have really damaged their wings. (I saw another luna moth in my backyard earlier this week but its wings were seriously damaged, like something had tried to catch it. So maybe this is a big year for these for some reason)

(And I must note, there is some kind of weird field-scientist tradition of photographing animals mid-mating: I remember being deeply embarrassed when I moved down here and my dad came out to my field site with me, and we saw two box turtles mating, and he HAD to photograph it. Though in my defense here, I didn't see the second moth at first)

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