|from the August 4, 2002 Newsletter issued from the woods
near Natchez, Mississippi, USA
LAST HOURS OF AN IMPERIAL MOTH
Tuesday at dawn as I jogged through the woods I came upon a yellowish, 4-inch across moth (10 cm) lying on its back quivering, and it was clear that it was dying. It was the Imperial Moth, EACLES IMPERIALIS, shown at the right.
Of course that's a close-up of the head below it.
from the December 12, 2010 Newsletter issued from
Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
|It was two inches long (5 cm) and as it lay in my hand it stiffly and faintly squirmed
back and forth. It'd turned up in soil containing lots of rotting wood. Clearly it's the
resting stage, or pupa, of a lepidopterous insect -- butterfly or moth. Most moth pupas
are cocoons made of silk. Most butterflies form exposed pupas, called chrysalises, like
that of our Blomfild's Beauty. However there are so many exceptions to this rule that
sometimes it's hard to say whether you have a butterfly or moth pupa.
Good ol' volunteer insect-identifier Bea in Ontario knew that this would be a hard one. In the end we're comfortable saying that probably Santos had brought me a pupa of a moth belonging to the Giant Silk Moth Family. On the Internet pupae in the Subfamily Ceratocampinae look a lot like ours. I find only one giant silk moth having been collected in our area, the Imperial Moth, EACLES IMPERIALIS QUINTANENSIS.
The third part of that name, quintanensis, denotes the subspecies, and refers to the specimen having been collected in the state to our east, Quintana Roo. All Giant Silk Moths are essentially sex machines. Adult moths exit their pupa with the sole goal of finding a member of the opposite sex, mating and producing offspring. They don't even eat, having no mouthparts to enable it.
Is our pupa really that of an Imperial Moth? A list of Silk Moths of Shipstern Nature Reserve in Belize lists six Ceratocampinae for that area, though only one Eacles, and that's the Imperial Moth. "Imperial Moth" is a good, bet but not a certainty.
I reburied the pupa and hope for the same luck I had with the adult Blomfild's Beauty.
By the way, you can see why so many insects would be appearing nowadays in their pupal stages. As the dry season continues to bear down, more and more trees and shrubs lose their leaves, herbs die back and in some places it's just hard to find water. Ecologically our dry season imposes pressures and dangers every bit as critical as the North's coldness. It's a good time to go underground, to pass time until rains and flowers return, to be a pupa.