Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cecropia Moths, Hyalophora cecropia

Sometime back in mid March, I was fishing at our farm's reservoir and I ran across a large cocoon. It was attached along the length of a small tree branch right on the edge of the water.

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Not having any idea what was in it, I tore it open and I found this very large pupa.

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I brought them both home, did some research, and found with suprising ease (thanks to this expert) that these were Cecropia moth pupae. Wanting desperately to film the emergence of this moth, I set up my time-lapse rig in my gargage closet and began shooting. I suspected from my reading that it would be about 2 weeks before eclosure so I spaced the photos out to about every 5-10 minutes at first. I waited and waited and waited. after about 3 weeks I got tired of watching time-lapse videos of a moth pupa sitting still, so I added some growing soybeans into the frame and continued the filming. At this point I was shooting 1 picture every 20 minutes. I wasn't prepared for the emergence of the first moth from the intact cocoon, but it came out and sat for a while. I missed the best part of the action of the moth emerging due to the long interval between pics. I did take some great photos of the adult moth before letting it go. Here is the video showing the whole above mentioned process:

Below is a nice pic of the moth after it emerged. It had a wingspan of around 5.5 inches. Here is a large version of my best Cecropia moth photo.

Click the pic to enlarge

I then rearranged the set up for the exposed pupa and the soybeans and waited for another week or so. I was about to give up on this pupa thinking it must have died from excessive handling when, just before going to bed, I rechecked and saw the pupa moving wildly and realized she was on her way out. I rearranged the set up again for a closer view and changed to 6 second intervals then varied from 6-20 second intervals. I was unbelievably excited about getting this whole event on camera but the excitement faded a little as I realized that her wings were a little deformed and she probably wouldn't fly as the other one had. I am not sure of what caused this. The shell of the pupa remained stuck around its right wing as they unfurled and I eventually had to pull it off between frames, but it may have been too late and that may be at least partly to blame for the deformity of her wings. Here is the video of the emerging moth:

This post and many better ones are on board Modulator's Friday Ark #291 so don't forget to have a look!!

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