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7764 Newborn Promethea Moth | by Anita363
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7764 Newborn Promethea Moth

Best viewed large. Sunday I took part in the East Brunswick Environmental Commision's 2nd annual Big Day bird count. We had 88 species within city limits, some nice odonata (Springtime Darner), and some beautiful Lady's Slipper orchids in both pink & white. But the sighting of the day was undoubtedly this huge male Promethea Moth. It had just emerged from its cocoon and was pumping its wings up. This was at 4:05 pm; females of this species call (release pheromone) only from 4 to 6 pm. The restricted calling time helps maintain reproductive isolation from the other silkmoth species that live here. Bottom view here. I had ~5' with it, & then it lifted off & flew straight up into the top of the canopy. Incidentally, my companions both went back to the cars for their (much more serious) cameras, but by the time they got back it was gone.

 

That's the cocoon below (a separate shot showing the whole thing: bugguide.net/node/view/51372/bgimage) -- it's made inside a rolled-up leaf. Host plant here is a sassafras sapling. Typical wingspan is 75-95 mm. More info on BugGuide.

 

I showed this shot to my father, & he said, "Hey, those are teeth." Took me a minute to figure out what he meant, & then I said, "Oh! Of course!" The toothed submarginal markings, especially along the edge of the forewing, look uncannily like -- well, teeth. Eyespots are commonly described as mimicry of eyes designed to scare away predators, and the extended tips of the forewings on some of these giant silk moths as mimicking a snake head in profile, but I've never seen a discussion that mentions mimicry of teeth. However, if you were a bird, wouldn't you think twice about messing with something that looked like a big open maw?

 

The background is too distracting on these photos, even at f2.6. When I have time I will probably do a cutout & blur it. But they were burning a hole in my hard drive; just had to get them posted. :-)

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Taken on May 6, 2006