Thread: Insects
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Old 2020-07-27, 22:53   #8
Dr Sardonicus
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Feb 2017

3,779 Posts

Originally Posted by bsquared View Post
I ran into this luna moth while camping last month. I'd never seen one this close up before.
It was pretty big - maybe 5 inches wingtip to wingtip.
Nice shots! The Luna Moth is considered by many to be the loveliest moth in North America. I find it hard to argue with that. Its light green color and long tails are amazing. I hope to see one in the great outdoors some day.

The only one of the Saturniid moths ("giant silk moths") I have actually seen outdoors is the Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), so named for the large eyespots on its hind wings. Its wings are mostly a light brown or tan color.

Another Saturniid, the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia), is reputed to be the largest North American moth, wing span 5 to 7 inches -- though the captured specimens I have seen were 5 inches across at most.

The largest moth I have ever seen outdoors here in the lower 48 was larger than most Cecropia Moths, but was a visitor from well south of my locale. That was the Black Witch (Ascalapha odorata), whose wings are mostly dark brown, with a line and color pattern that reminded me of marbleized paper. I saw them in Colorado Springs on several occasions. They live and breed from Brazil north to Arizona and southern Texas, but adults sometimes migrate hundreds of miles further north, or get blown north by storms. It is, along with the Cecropia, reputed to be the largest moth in North America.

They are considered nocturnal, but I saw them flying around during the day. They are so large that when I first caught sight of one flying around the crown of a tree, I thought it was a bird! But its wing beats and flight speed were way too slow. So I knew it was a giant moth, and the only one I could find in a Field Guide that matched what I saw was the Black Witch. An entomologist with the Cooperative Extension confirmed their presence in the area by the fact that someone in a nearby locale had brought in a specimen, which he had identified.

I also saw one while on vacation in Hawaii. Apparently they are native there too. I was at a gas station at night, and the thing flew by, then landed on the concrete near the pumps! I was able to capture it by grasping its wing tips, so got a good look at it before letting it go. It had a wing span of at least 6 inches.
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