Silkmoths

A reddish-brown moth sitting on a stick

A female Promethea silkmoth (Callosamia promethea) hanging out on a stick, drying her wings.

This post doesn’t have any to do with writing, but instead has to do with another passion of mine.

I love rearing silkmoths.

Not for their silk, but for their beauty. When most people think of moths, they probably think of little, drab night creatures. But silkmoths are not only big and beautiful, but the one pictured above is actually a day flier.

She is the first of her sisters to emerge from her cocoon this year, and two of her brothers hatched yesterday. I let the males go, since it’s the females that I need in order to breed them.

How do I breed them? Well, they do all the work. An unmated female releases pheromones into the air, and males home in on the scent trail and follow it back to the female to mate with her. After the mated pair separates, the female will lay a bunch of eggs, and, once I get eggs, I let the female go.

Even though I’ve seen the complete life cycle of several species of silkmoths many times over, the entire process has never gotten old for me, and I never fail to get excited when my moths emerge from their cocoons, all in mint condition. It may sound dumb, but I’m always amazed at the fact that those big, beautiful moths started out as tiny eggs.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting outside with the female (the same one as in the picture) waiting for the males to arrive. She’s in a little mesh bug cage tied up in a tree, so she’s protected from birds and can’t escape. She’ll keep releasing pheromones until dusk, so hopefully I’ll get a male for her this evening. 🙂

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