Giant moths beautiful, but growing scarcer

Here in Northern Ontario, we have several really big moths. These are not like ordinary moths at all.
They don’t have pointy wings, and they don’t fold their wings flat like other moths do. They have thick bodies and big feathery antennae, and generally they are quite beautiful.
I will mention four of these, which all belong to the family Saturniidae—the Giant Silkworm moths. They are relatives of the famous oriental silkworms.
The Io Moth (Automeris io) has a wingspan of three inches or so. The male’s wings are bright yellow, or red and yellow. Each hindwing has a very prominent “eyespot” on it.
The Polyphemus (Anthera polyphemus) is quite a bit bigger—wingspan up to six inches. Its wings are buff-coloured, or olive brown. This one has two pairs of eyespots.
The spots on the hindwings are dark blue and black, and look very much like the spots on the feathers of a peacock.
Here is the biggest of them all, the Cecropia (Hyalophora cecropia). Its wingspan may be well over seven inches. The body is red while the wings are grey or grey-brown, with many prominent red, black, and white markings.
Once again, it has four eyespots—this time crescent-shaped red and white ones.
But the top-notcher of them all is the Luna Moth (Actias Luna), which is not like any other moth in the world. Its wings are pale green, and each hind wing has a long “tail.”
It also has four eyespots, though not very prominent in this case.
It is a big moth, up to five inches across. The word “luna” refers to the moon. Its pale ethereal beauty, and the fact it flies only at night, would cause folk years ago to associate in with the moon.
All of these moths spin silk cocoons, and the silk is amazingly strong. Years ago, the silk was used to make leaders for fly-fishing lines—and it could withstand a four-pound pull.
The caterpillars are big ones and they eat an awful lot. One estimate is that a Polyphemus caterpillar will eat 60,000 times its own weight in two days.
A human baby—eating at the same rate—would eat about 250 tons during its first two days of life.
The adult moths do not eat at all. When fertilization is done, the male dies. When the eggs are laid, the female dies.
Incidentally, the male is attracted to the female by a scent which she gives off, and which he can detect for up to three miles.
These moths are becoming scarcer and scarcer. They usually are found in the woods, but do come into towns sometimes, attracted by the lights.
They certainly are some of the most beautiful insects we have here in the north. They are well worth your thoughtfulness and protection.

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