These are Polyphemus cocoons, Antherea polyphemus. I started with nine of them, which I got from a nice guy named Dan in Ohio. I found another one locally here in the Dallas area, on an oak tree at a park. Note: park rangers don’t appreciate people walking around with tree loppers. He didn’t say anything, but I got That Look.
And anybody who’s been following this journal, knows what big cocoons turn into…
Last evening when I got home from work, this lovely lady was hanging on the screen, drying her wings. You can’t really see in this shot, how soft her wings are. The back of the wings look like dead leaves; this is a camouflage to help the moths hide. April 6, 2004.
But in this one, you can see how floppy the wings are! She flapped her wings back and forth, pumping them up. The top of her wings are beautiful; you can’t really see it, but the little spots inside the eyes are reflective like hematite.
This is the terrarium the cocoons are in, outside. In order to ensure that they hatch out in the right season so that there will be other moths around (we’ll get to that in a little bit…) they have to be exposed to local temperatures, and even the occasional bit of rain, as long as they don’t get drenched. The paper towel across the back of the glass is for the moths to climb up on; once they hatch out of the cocoons, they need to hang to let their wings fill out.
This is what she looks like after drying for a while. I think these moths are amazing looking. They are called Polyphemus moths after a monstrous Greek giant with huge eyes. These eyespots are believed to startle predators; the moth displays them when disturbed.
These are the two ways you can tell she’s a female: First, the thin antennae; the male would have big bushy ones. Second, the large distended belly. It’s full of eggs. And also full of liquid which the moth will squirt on you if surprised. Be warned.