Friday, June 10, 2011

Distracted–the Polyphemus Moth

I’ll be honest. I was just playing Angry Birds, the horribly addictive app I can play on my iPhone. It’s right next to Audubon Nature Florida. I’m supposed to be writing about a moth. I had intended to simply look up the scientific name for the moth in question on the Audubon app. No I don’t know all of the scientific names of every plant and animal. Gorilla is easy. But in doing that quick bit of research my attention was drawn to the small square box on my shiny smartphone housing an angry cardinal. The next think I know I’m launching ferocious birds at pigs. I’m ashamed.

The Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) lives and dies by behavior such as mine. The massive, night-flying member of the Saturniidae family of moths is decorated to both blend in among the leaf litter and confuse would-be predators with flashy eye spots. The six-inch wide, heavy-bodied moth has a week to live as an adult. There’s no time to feed. Females cast off an enticing pheromone that the males pick up on with their large, feather-like antennae. The males mate with multiple females while the females mate and go about finding a safe spot to lay their eggs.
At rest the tan, scalloped wing margins look like leaves and the insect can simply camouflage with its surroundings. At risk of being preyed upon, the Polyphemus Moth can flash the hind wings, unveiling two massive eye-like spots that give the appearance of something looking back. The wings are folded back in. The eye spots disappear and a confused predator either weighs the possibility of a challenge from another predator or can no longer find the thing with the bright flashy colorful spots that it wanted to eat.
Those familiar with Greek mythology might recognize Polyphemus as the one-eyed son of Poseidon and thus the naming of this beauty of a moth, which got me wondering why they named the movie the Poseidon Adventure. Back to the internet and long story short, Ernest Borgnine is still alive. Ugh. Now I need to research why the Angry Birds don’t have wings.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful shot of the antennae, Pete! Since I'm prone to distraction as well, I think I must stay far from Angry Birds.