Summer is slow and damp and fervent and growing and incubating and crawling right along . . .
You’ll remember i wrote a journal about capturing some moths, and collecting the eggs . . .
Well – i now have three different species i’ve been caring for since that time. All eggs hatched, the survivors are now 3 Luna, 4 Polyphemus, and 4 Promethea Moth caterpillars. Always i would see the winged things at the porch light, now i see where they begin and end.
They eat voraciously and seem to grow overnite. It’s truly incredible to watch. By the end of this month, they should all be in the pupa stage – enclosing themselves in silk cocoons, the Luna, the most delicate of them. i hope i get to see them construct their winter blankets.
Keeping them as i do, i actually ensure their survival away from pests and predators. i am responsible to feed and care for something smaller than myself and so much simpler and more beautiful. i also get to watch some of the most amazing and complete metamorphoses in nature.
They are almost and big as half of my index finger and nearly as thick. i hope you enjoy them as much as i do . . .
Today. i am 32. i don’t feel any different, i still think i look young. but this has been an extremely long week . . .
Zoey arrived here Sunday with her father, a Ryder truck and all of her belongings. she and Brooks and i have spent the week moving into our new house, with her living space in the loft, setting up the areas, drinking quite a good spell, watching movies, trying to adjust and relax which has been nearly impossible what with all the work and storage facilities and pianos to move and well . . . the rest of it as you can only imagine and would be a crashing bore to read.
last weekend i installed the best processor my motherboard would accept and upgraded my memory. i have 2 60GB harddrives: one with the OS on it and the other simply to store a series of drag and drop folders containing things such as documents, email, music, folders, programs, drivers, web site backups, etc. because i refreshed my speed, i decided to install a fresh, reformatted copy of XP. took the time to establish that the back up was done and the folders were intact. unplugged the backup drive so as not acccidentally overwrite it, reformatted, re-installed, plugged the drive back in, the BIOS saw them both but then – the drive wouldn’t access, it made a noise that sounded to me, not as catastrophic as a head crash, but more like a mechanical failure, like the arm couldn’t go across and read even though the disc was spinning, but perhaps not fast enough.
Well – i spent the whole night crying and flipping out, woke up with swollen eyes, skipped work and overnighted the drive to Drive Savers who are the best in the business in Data Recovery. i can only hope it’s all still intact and the estimate ($500-$2700) is based on the completeness and complexity. these guys take the plates apart in an anti-static lab environment and rebuild the data, transfer it to a new disc or burn it to the media of your choice (in my case DVDs.) these guys have dealt with discs that have endured fire damage, been tossed out car windows while encased in a laptop, submerged underwater, even shot. i can only hope mine is straighforward, uncorrupted retrieval.
losing that amount of important data is devastating. i feel like someone has erased 7 years of my life, or gave me a frontal lobotomy, or my house has burned down. the moral of the story is backup. keep a backup of your backup. and bakup your secondary backup to media that is not only different but stored elsewhere.
even so, there is also and exchange when things go wrong, things also go well in transition . . .
while some die, others are born and live . . . the Polyphemus moth’s egss that i wrote about previously have hatched. 20 egss, 18 caterpillars hatched, 5 now have survived to their second instar and are still eating and growing and dropping much frass (poop) i have also successfully mated two other species and contained their eggs and am waiting for them to hatch. soon i’ll have to build them a proper house for rearing as well.
today is my birthday, i have to go to work, my office is a tower of boxes around me, my moths are fluttering in a glass enclosure nearby, and i will let them go today since they have given me their gifts.
more sweetness to come later, but for now, i find myself green again, crawling the length of a leaf and eating slowly all Summer, waiting to spin some silk and to sleep in the Autumn.
This is a Polyphemus Moth, one of the largest of the Giant Silkworm Moths, although not the largest North American moth, the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia).
Because of the large eyespot on each hind wing, this moth is named after Polyphemus, the legendary Cyclops from Homer’s Odyssey who lived in a cave and tended sheep and ate straying sailors.
From the outside, or underneath, when they are closed, the Polyphemus moths’ wings look like dead leaves. But if this moth is disturbed too much, it may drop onto the ground and flop its wings vigorously. It will snap its wings open as an anti-predation mechanism intended to expose the large eyespots which mimic an owl’s eyes which can startle a predator, such as a squirrel or bird. After a while the moth will cease flopping, then continue to “warm up”. Silk moths are so large that they must warm their flight muscles for a minute or two before they can fly. They do this by shivering and in doing so, the flight muscles vibrate in opposition to each other rather than in synchrony as they would in flight.
The first time I ever held a large Silkmoth I thought the trembling was fear . . . it’s really just getting ready to fly. I guess we are always trembling before something big is about to happen, before we must take flight.
The moth I have pictured is a male, which you can tell by the larger, fan-like antennae. Today, my boss called me to the back office where he pointed out a strange creature hanging from the eaves. as if by miracle . . . it was a female, of the same species. Shortly after I captured her, she laid eggs! I collected them and took her home to meet the male I had.
Now—the eggs she laid may be infertile—I will know in a few days if they collapse. There is also a good chance they may be viable, in which case this is the caterpillar of the Polyphemus Moth. Then I will be fortunate enough to witness the whole cycle through pupation and rebirth again, with fine, unbattered specimens for later.
This moth is born without mouth parts. It does not eat. There is nothing I can do to preserve it. This is a feature that constantly amazes me. All of its energy and food will have been stored up from all the eating it did as a caterpillar. It will mate and it will lay eggs and it will die.
A rainstorm came tonight, windy and cold, whispering around the house. I let the moths out of their enclosure, they crawled over my hands, scaled the length of my arm, crawled up my neck and lit off from the top of my head into the air of the room, the cats watched and I forbade them to leap or attack. I put them away and they flailed helplessly, battering against the edges of the world. could I keep them, knowing they die soon anyway and I would be left with their colorful cases? could I watch them die or come back to find them this way—colorful, then pale and ragged?
I opened the front door, opened the cage and the male found its way out immediately fluttering somewhere above the rain into the treetops. the female dragged herself lightly along, her abdomen a heavy half-moon curved to lay eggs, looking more tired, flagged, drugged, close to sleep. I wonder how I will find her in the morning.
I have to respect a creature whose ending life cycle seeks only to love briefly and to die. It spends 10 to 14 days in its tiny white infancy, eats its own shell after being born and then begins to eat everything it is presented, absorbing all it can. it sheds itself five or 6 times, each one called an “instar” and then it crawls away to hide, spins a cocoon in August or September and sleeps until May or June where upon emerging a shriveled childlike thing again, it will blossom fully and live briefly.
This is so much like us—we spend our first years helpless and hungry, we take everything we are given, swallow it up whole, we shed our skins several times trying to be stars and by the time we know, by the time we are calm and nearly perfect, our days left to love and to live are considerably short.
Best to keep our eyes open at night, to flap around for attention to prove we exist, to shiver for warmth and work our muscles to gather internal strength when we must finally take our leave, and to leave knowing we have loved.
Yesterday, i was standing at a table, taking a lunch order when i felt a crawling tickle on the back of my knee, and shook a moth out of my pant leg. It was rather big, with silver and chocolate brown spots.
It flew up and circled the table in an oddly beautiful spiraling arc, and everyone stared quietly – then laughed.
I had to explain that i JUST washed these pants, and the door near the laundry has bright lights and these guys just float in.
I also explained my affinity for things with wings, and everywhere i go, they are sure to follow, looking to have their photos taken.