Cecropia Giant Silk Moth
She sits in a screen cage on my back porch, wings together, abdomen extended downwards. Calling. Hyde Park, Boston, isn't known for its wildlife, but on this foggy night in late May, New England's largest flying insect is on the move. I'm awake at 12:30 am to see the first male arrive, by 3:00 there is a small cloud of admirers flirting and flitting around the porch. All I have to do is let one into the cage and a new year of raising giants will begin.
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Two cecropia moths are joined in a prolonged copulatory embrace. The female, identifiable by her broadly rounded wings, narrow antennae, and heavy egg-filled abdomen, used pheromones to call in the longer-winged, wider antennaed, and smaller bodied male. During their short lives as adults, neither of these moths requires food or drink, having only useless vestigial mouthparts, and no digestive tract to speak of. They are simple machines, designed to expertly seek out a mate, produce a new generation, and then die away.
Cecropia and other giant silk moths are becoming a rare sight in New England, especially close to human habitation. Pesticide spraying, light pollution, and introduced predators in the form of parasitoid flies, are probably all taking their toll on populations. How could we let these, our most spectacular native insects, disappear from our neighborhoods forever.
Custom photographs from Samuel Jaffe's "The Art of Survival" are available for purchase.
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