Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:36 pm

by Gene Stratton-Porter
© 1912, by Doubleday, Page & Company



Table of Contents:

• Books by Gene Stratton-Porter
• Opening Pages
• Moths of the Limberlost
1. Moths of the Limberlost
2. Moths, Eggs, Caterpillars, Winter Quarters
3. The Robin Moth: Cecropia
4. The Yellow Emperor: Eades Imperialis
5. The Lady Bird: Deilephila Lineata
6. Moths of the Moon: Actias Luna
7. King of the Hollyhocks: Protoparce Celeus
8. Hera of the Corn: Hyperchira Io
9. The Sweetheart and the Bride: Catocala Amatyix -- Catocala Neogama
10. The Giant Gamin: Telea Polyphemus
11. The Garden Fly: Protoparce Carolina
12. Bloody-nose of Sunshine Hill: Hemaris Thysbe
13. The Modest Moth: Triptogon Modesta
14. The Pride of the Lilacs: Attacus Promethea
15. The King of the Poets: Citheronia Regalis
• List of Illustrations
1. Our Rarest Moth
2. All Diamonded with Panes of Quaint Device
3. Developing Regalis
4. At the Edge of the Limberlost
5. Under No Restraint
6. A Moth Worth Knowing
7. Study the Ensuing Illustrations
8. Citheronia Regalis Scattering Pearls
9. Modest and Lovely Modesta
10. Moth Mullein
11. Cocoon Inside Hollow Log
12. Eggs
13. Caterpillar at Maturity
14. Pupa Case of Feeder and Non-Feeder
15. Winter Quarters
16. Life-Size Pupa Case of Earth
17. The Robin Moth
18. My First Cecropia
19. Slender Cocoons
20. Baggy Twin Cocoons
21. Where Philip Found a Girl of the Limberlost
22. Cecropia Life History Begins with Eggs
23. Cecropia Caterpillar Ready to Spin
24. Interwoven Twin Cocoons
25. Twin Cecropia Emerging
26. Male Out and Female Coming
27. Both Out
28. Expanding and Drying Wings
29. Ready to Travel
30. Interior of Winter Quarters
31. Moths of the Carnival
32. Facing the Audience
33. "On the Banks of the Wabash"
34. The Lady Bird
35. Lineata Moth
36. Works of Art
37. Favourite Haunt of the Lady Bird
38. The Trailed Aristocrat
39. Luna Moth
40. A Luna Courtship
41. Good Luna Hunting
42. Luna Caterpillar
43. King of the Hollyhocks
44. Celeus Moth
45. A Limberlost Cabin
46. No Other Celeus So Big and Beautiful
47. Gold Io Seeking a Mate
48. Io Moth
49. My Childhood Enemy of the Corn
50. Io Pupa Case
51. "One for the Blackbird," Etc.
52. The Sweetheart and Bride of Limberlost Cabin
53. Hiding Among the Roses
54. The Home of the Sweetheart and Bride
55. Sweethearts and Brides Come to Light
56. Velvet Robed and Jewel Bedecked
57. New Polyphemus Cocoon
58. The Home of My First Giant
59. Occupied and Deserted Tenements
60. Leaving Home
61. Waiting for Wings
62. Garden Fly
63. A Pair of Garden Flies
64. Where Elnora Found Garden Flies
65. Bloody-Nose of Sunshine Hill
66. Thysbe Resembles a Big Bumblebee
67. The Crest of Sunshine Hill
68. The Modest Moth
69. Soft Grays and Browns
70. In the Valley of the Wood Robin
71. The Pride of the Lilacs
72. Three Promethea Cocoons
73. The River Bridge
74. Promethus Bound
75. King Citheronia
76. Preliminary Exercise
77. King of the Wild Tiger Lilies
78. A Royal Couple
79. The Queen Gives Us Her Jewels
80. High Piled Treasure
81. Full-Fed and Ready to Transform
82. Changing to Pupa
83. Encased for Winter
84. Leaving Winter Quarters
85. An Hour Later

Cocoon gathering in the fall is one of the most delightful occupations imaginable. When flowers are gone, when birds have migrated, when brilliant foliage piles knee deep underfoot, during those last few days of summer, zest can be added to a ramble by a search for cocoons. Carrying them home with extreme care not to jar or dent them, they are placed in the conservatory among the flowers. They hang from cacti spines and over thorns on the big century plant and lemon tree. When sprinkling, the hose is turned on them, as they would take the rain outside. Usually they are placed in the coolest spots, where ventilation is good.

If they are kept cool enough that they do not emerge until May or June, then you have one of the most exquisite treats nature has in store for you, in watching the damp spot spread on the top of the cocoon where an acid is ejected that cuts and softens the tough fibre, and allows the moth to come pushing through in the full glory of its gorgeous birth. Nowhere in nature can you find such delicate and daintily shaded markings or colours so brilliant and fresh as on the wings of these creatures of night.

If you want to photograph them, do it when the wings are fully developed, but before they have flown. They need not be handled; their wings are unbroken; their down covering in place to the last scale; their colours never so brilliant; their markings the plainest they ever will be; their big pursy bodies full of life; and they will climb with perfect confidence on any stick, twig, or limb held before them. Reproductions of them are even more beautiful than those of birds. By all means photograph them out of doors on a twig or leaf that their caterpillars will eat.

-- Moths of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter
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Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:36 pm




The Song of the Cardinal
Homing With the Birds
Birds of the Bible
Music of the Wild
Friends in Feathers
Moths of the Limberlost
Morning Face


At the Foot of the Rainbow
A Girl of the Limberlost
The Harvester
Michael O'Hollaran
A Daughter of the Land
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Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:39 pm





Our Rarest Moth





To Neltje DeGraff Doubleday


"Scientific writings may be divided into three groups: technical works intended for scientific men, popular compilations for general use, and works which contribute to literature and science at the same time. Of the first two there is no lack, but our third division is so poorly represented as to have led to the saying that those who can write on scientific subjects have no original ideas, while those who have ideas cannot write. It is even true that popular works by eminent investigators are usually to be described as critical compilations, taking no high rank as science or literature."


''All diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains, and splendid dyes,
As are the Tiger Moth's deep damask wings."


"All Diamonded With Panes of Quaint Device"
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Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:41 pm



To me the Limberlost is a word with which to conjure; a spot wherein to revel. The swamp lies in north-eastern Indiana, nearly one hundred miles south of the Michigan line and ten west of the Ohio. In its day it covered a large area. When I arrived; there were miles of unbroken forest, lakes provided with boats for navigation, streams of running water, the roads around the edges corduroy, made by felling and sinking large trees in the muck. Then the Winter Swamp had all the lacy exquisite beauty of such locations when snow and frost draped, while from May until October it was practically tropical jungle. From it I have sent to scientists flowers and vines not then classified and illustrated in our botanies.


It was a piece of forethought to work unceasingly at that time, for soon commerce attacked the swamp and began its usual process of devastation. Canadian lumbermen came seeking tall straight timber for ship masts and tough heavy trees for beams. Grand Rapids followed and stripped the forest of hard wood for fine furniture, and through my experience with the lumber men "Freckles'" story was written. Afterward hoop and stave men and local mills took the best of the soft wood. Then a ditch, in reality a canal, was dredged across the north end through my best territory, and that carried the water to the Wabash River until oil men could enter the swamp. From that time the wealth they drew to the surface constantly materialized in macadamized roads, cosy homes, and big farms of unsurpassed richness, suitable for growing onions, celery, sugar beets, corn and potatoes, as repeatedly has been explained in everything I have written of the place. Now, the Limberlost exists only in ragged spots and patches, but so rich was it in the beginning that there is yet a wealth of work for a lifetime remaining to me in these, and river thickets. I ask no better hunting grounds for birds, moths, and flowers. The fine roads are a convenience, and settled farms a protection, to be taken into consideration, when bewailing its dismantling. It is quite true that "One man's meat is another's poison." When poor Limber, lost and starving in the fastnesses of the swamp, gave to it a name, afterward to be on the lips of millions, to him it was deadly poison. To me it has been of unspeakable interest, unceasing work of joyous nature, and meat in full measure, with occasional sweetbreads by way of a treat.

At the Edge of the Limberlost

Primarily, I went to the swamp to study and reproduce the birds. I never thought they could have a rival in my heart. But these fragile night wanderers, these moonflowers of June's darkness, literally "thrust themselves upon me." When my cameras were placed before the home of a pair of birds, the bushes parted to admit light, and clinging to them I found a creature, often having the bird's sweep of wing, of colour pale green with decorations of lavender and yellow or running the gamut from palest tans, darkest browns, with markings, of pink or dozens of other irresistible combinations of colour, the feathered folk found a competitor that often outdistanced them in my affections, for I am captivated easily by colour, and beauty of form.

At first, these moths made studies of exquisite beauty, I merely stopped a few seconds to reproduce them, before proceeding with my work. Soon I found myself filling the waiting time, when birds were slow in coming before the cameras, when clouds obscured the light too much for fast exposures, or on grey days, by searching for moths. Then in collecting abandoned nests, cocoons were found on limbs, inside stumps, among leaves when gathering nuts, or queer shining pupae-cases came to light as I lifted wild flowers in the fall. All these were carried to my little conservatory, placed in as natural conditions as possible, and studies were made from the moths that emerged the following spring. I am not sure but that "Moths of Limberlost Cabin" would be the most appropriate title for this book.

Sometimes, before I had finished with them, they paired, mated, and dotted everything with fertile eggs, from which tiny caterpillars soon would emerge. It became a matter of intense interest to provide their natural foods and raise them. That started me to watching for caterpillars and eggs out of doors, and friends of my work began carrying them to me. Repeatedly, I have gone through the entire life process, from mating newly emerged moths, the egg period, caterpillar life, with its complicated moults and changes, the spinning of the cocoons, the miraculous winter sleep, to the spring appearance; and with my cameras recorded each stage of development. Then on platinum paper, printed so lightly from these negatives as to give only an exact reproduction of forms, and with water colour medium copied each mark, line and colour gradation in most cases from the living moth at its prime. Never was the study of birds so interesting. Before I realized it, the larger part of the illustration of this book had been completed, in connection with bird work, and for no purpose save the pleasure it gave to me and the delight of my friends.

Later when I realized that the idea of a moth book had taken definite shape in my brain I studied the illustration I had, most critically, striving to decide if it would be possible to produce better and more accurate pictures by drawing my specimens. This led to close comparison between such photographs as I had made, and the drawn illustration of the same species in moth books now on the market. Very little investigation along this line proved that the worth of a drawing amounted exactly to the art of the artist. It was as close as he could copy, no more, no less. The work of a good camera, rightly operated, was reproduction; the living creature placed before you as it was evolved by the Almighty -- not as it was copied by man. The surroundings presented as they were, not as they were imagined. This meant work, five or six years of exacting, unceasing work, but it produced the real moth and its true environment as close to life as it was possible to put it on paper.

The illustration of every moth book I ever have seen, that attempted coloured reproduction, proved by the shrivelled bodies and unnatural position of the wings, that it had been painted from objects mounted from weeks to years in private collections or museums. A lifeless moth fades rapidly under the most favourable conditions. A moth at eight days of age, in the last stages of decline, is from four to six distinct shades lighter in colour than at six hours from the cocoon, when it is dry, and ready for flight. As soon as circulation stops, and the life juices evaporate from the wings and body, the colour grows many shades paler. If exposed to light, moths soon fade almost beyond recognition. In judging the exactitude of my work as a colourist, please remember this fact: in nearly every case the moths of these illustrations were photographed before they had taken flight, and their colours copied as soon as the down was dry and fluffy. Having done my work from moths fresh as life, all other attempts at colour reproduction with which I am familiar, appear pale and faded to me. Also, I must admit, that to show nearly intangible lines, shadings and fluffings, I purposely have made all colour as strong as I dared to be accurate.

I make no claim to being an entomologist; I quite agree with the "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table", that "the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp." If my life depended upon it I could not give the scientific name of every least organ and nerve of a moth, and as for wrestling with the thousands of tiny species of day and night or even attempting all the ramifications of -- say the alluringly beautiful Catocalae family -- life is too short, unless devoted to this purpose alone. But if I frankly confess my limitations, and offer the book to my nature-loving friends merely as an introduction to the most exquisite creation of the swamp, and the outside history, as it were, of the evolution of these creatures from moth to moth again, surely no one can feel defrauded. Since the publication of "A Girl of the Lirnberlost", I have received hundreds of letters asking me to write of my experiences with the lepidoptera of the swamp. This book professes to be nothing more.

Under No Restraint

Because so many enemies prey upon the large night moths in all stages, they are nowhere sufficiently numerous to be pests, or common enough to be given local names, as have the birds. I have been compelled to use their scientific names to assist in identification, and at times I have had to resort to technical terms, because there were no other. All these moths were reproduced as far as possible to me, in natural and characteristic environment. At times in order to show exquisite markings, by judicious use of a fine brush of long camel's-hair, I have coaxed and manipulated the wings to a wider sweep than is natural to the moth, but the subject was living and under no restraint when this was done. Frequently I have written of them under the names by which I knew them in childhood, or that we of Limberlost Cabin have bestowed upon them.

Most of these studies were possible by making them of the moths as soon after their emergence from the cocoon or pupa case as their wings were fully developed, dry and hardened, but before circulation was sufficiently established for them to take flight. At this time they could be reproduced at full beauty, not a scale of down displaced, their markings the brightest they ever would be, and as they climbed naturally with wings lifted, half open or widespread. Often the camel's-hair brush had to be called into use to fluff down that had dried in tufts, and office that the air performs in flight. The difference between these perfect living creatures, and the shrivelled, pin-pierced subjects of the illustration of any moth book I possess, is the difference between abundant life and repulsive death.

To one point I wish to call especial attention. In the case of Luna, Modesta, or any moth that has much white or gray, the colour is changed a faint shade by the creamy paper. The whites are not the pure white they should be, the grays take on a brownish cast. With a moth having any shade of yellow or of the numerous tans, browns, reds or black, the work of the engraver comes out with a mellow velvet softness added from having been printed on this paper. In summing up the entire illustration I found four moths slightly changed in white and gray shades by the paper, while twenty were immensely helped by it and to the half-tones it gave a background of tempting richness. So the majority of "points" was overwhelmingly in favour of clay coated paper, and knowing how long and patiently I had worked over the material, the powers that control the destiny of this book graciously left it to me to decide questions concerning its manufacture. I have loved the work above anything I ever have done, a fact you will not be slow to recognize as you read and examine the illustration.

There is a wide gulf between a Naturalist and a Nature Lover. A Naturalist devotes his life to delving into stiff scientific problems concerning everything in nature from her greatest to her most minute forms. A Nature Lover works at any occupation and finds recreation in being out of doors and appreciating the common things of life as they appeal to his senses.

The Naturalist always begins at the beginning and traces family, subfamily, genus and species. He deals in Latin and Greek terms of resounding and disheartening combinations. At his hands anatomy and markings become lost in a scientific jargon of patagia, jugum, discocellulars, phagocytes, and so on to the end of the volume. For one who would be a Naturalist, a rare specimen indeed, there are many volumes on the market. The list of pioneer lepidopterists begins authoritatively with Linnaeus and since his time you can make your selection from the works of Druce, Grote, Strecker, Boisduval, Robinson, Smith, Butler, Fernald, Beutenmuller, Hicks, Rothschild, Hampson, Stretch, Lyman, or any of a dozen others. Possessing such an imposing array of names there should be no necessity to add to them. These men have impaled moths and dissected, magnified and located brain, heart and nerves. See Packard's "Guide to the Study of Insects," page thirty-five, figure forty-four. After finishing the interior they have given to the most minute exterior organ from two to three inches of Latin name. From them we learn that it requires a coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, tarsus, ungues, pulvillus, and anterior, medial and posterior spurs to provide a leg for a moth. I dislike to weaken my argument that more work along these lines is not required, by recording that after all this, no one seems to have located the ears definitely. Some believe hearing lies in the antennae. Hicks has made an especial study of a fluid filled cavity closed by a membrane that he thinks he has demonstrated to be the seat of hearing. Leydig, Gerstaecker, and others believe this same organ to be olfactory. Perhaps, after all, there is room for only one more doctor of science who will permanently settle this and a few other vexing questions for us.

A Moth Worth Knowing

But what of the millions of Nature Lovers, who each year snatch only a brief time afield, for rest and recreation? What of the masses of men and women whose daily application to the work of life makes vacation study a burden, or whose business has so broken the habit of study that concentration is distasteful if not impossible? These people number in the ratio of a million to one Naturalist. They would be delighted to learn the simplest name possible for the creatures they or their friends find afield, and the markings, habits, and characteristics by which they can be identified. They do not care in the least for species and minute detail concerning anatomy, couched in resounding Latin and Greek terms they cannot possibly remember.

The more enthusiastic buy a work on moths and at sight of the colourless pinned specimens used for most illustration, and the scientific impossibility of the text for their purpose, they abandon it at the first chapter. They want a book that will teach them how to identify the moths they find, explain whether they are creatures of light or darkness, whether they feed or accomplish their mission without nourishment, where it is probable they can be found, what their habits are, how to identify their eggs and caterpillars, whether to look for their winter quarters in a cocoon on a twig or outbuilding, under the bark of a tree, among the leaves of earth, or in a case in a hole in the ground; that will give to them a name there is some possibility of remembering, and coloured illustrations to guide in identification. This is offered as the book of the Nature Lover and is designed solely to fill this purpose.

I never have seen or heard of any person who on being shown any one of ten of our most beautiful moths, did not consider and promptly pronounce it the most exquisite creation he ever had seen, and evince a lively interest in its history. But when he found it necessary to purchase a text-book, devoid of all human interest or literary possibility, and wade through pages of scientific dissertation, all the time having the feeling that perhaps through his lack of experience his identification was not aright, he usually preferred to remain in ignorance. It is in the belief that all Nature Lovers, afield for entertainment or instruction, will be thankful for a simplification of any method now existing for becoming acquainted with moths, that this book is written and illustrated.

In gathering the material used I think it is quite true that I have lost as many good subjects as I have secured, in my efforts to follow the teachings of scientific writers. My complaint against them is that they neglect essential detail and are not always rightly informed. They confuse one with a flood of scientific terms describing minute anatomical parts and fail to explain the simple yet absolutely essential points over which an amateur has trouble, when often only a few words would suffice.

For example, any one of half a dozen writers tells us that when a caterpillar finishes eating and is ready to go into winter quarters it crawls rapidly around for a time, empties the intestines, and transformation takes place. Why do not some of them explain further that a caterpillar of, say, six inches in length will shrink three, its skin become loosened, the horns drop limp, and the creature appear dead and disintegrating? Because no one mentioned these things, I concluded that the first caterpillar I found in this state was lost to me and threw it away. A few words would have saved the complete history of a beautiful moth, to secure which no second opportunity was presented for five years.

Several works I consulted united in the simple statement that certain caterpillars pupate in the ground.

In Packard's "Guide", on page ninety-seven you will find this -- "Lepidopterous pupae should be ... kept moist in mould until the image appears." I followed this direction, even taking the precaution to bake the earth used, because I was very anxious about some rare moths. When they failed to emerge in season I dug them out, only to find that those not moulted had been held fast by the damp, packed earth, and all were ruined. I learned by investigation that pupation takes place in a hole worked out by the caterpillar, so earth must touch these cases only as they lie upon it. The one word "hole" would have saved all those moths for me.

One writer stated that the tongue cases of some pupae turn over and fasten on the back between the wing shields, and others were strangely silent on the subject. So for ten months I kept some cases lying on their backs with the feet up and photographed them in that position. I had to discover for myself that caterpillars that pupate in the ground change to the moth form with the feet and legs folded around the under side of the thorax, the wings wrap over them, and the tongue case bends under and is fastened between the wings.

For years I could find nothing on the subject of how a moth from a burrowing caterpillar made its appearance. In two recent works I find the statement that the pupa cases come to the surface before the moths leave them, but how the operation is performed is not described or explained. Pupa cases from earth consist of two principal parts: the blunt head and thorax covering, and the ringed abdominal sections. With many feeders there is a long, fragile tongue shield. The head is rounded and immovable of its own volition. The abdominal part is in rings that can be turned and twisted; on the tip are two tiny, needlesharp points, and on each of three rings of the abdominal shield there are in many cases a pair of tiny hooks, very slight projections, yet enough to be of use. Some lepidopterists think the pupa works head first to the surface, pushing with the abdomen. To me this seems impossible. The more one forced the blunt head against the earth the closer it would pack, and the delicate tongue shield surely would break. There is no projection on the head that would loosen or lift the earth.

One prominent lepidopterist I know, believes the moth emerges underground, and works its way to the surface as it fights to escape a cocoon. I consider this an utter impossibility. Remember the earthen-crusted cicada cases you have seen clinging to the trunks of trees, after the insect has reached the surface and abandoned them. Think what would happen to the delicate moth head, wings, and downy covering! I am willing to wager all I possess, that no lepidopterist, or any amateur, ever found a freshly emerged moth from an underground case with the faintest trace of soil on its head or feet, or a particle of down missing, as there unquestionably must be, if it forced its way to freedom through the damp spring earth with its mouth and feet.

The point was settled for me when, while working in my garden, one came through the surface within a few inches of my fingers, working with the tip of the abdomen. It turned, twisted, dug away the dirt, fastened the abdominal tip, pulled up the head, and then bored with the tip again. Later I saw several others emerge in the same way, and then made some experiments that forever convinced me that this is the only manner in which ground pupae possibly could emerge.

One writer I had reason to suppose standard authority stated that caterpillars from Citheronia Regalis eggs emerged in sixteen days. So I boxed some eggs deposited on the eleventh, labelled them due to produce caterpillars on the twenty-seventh and put away the box to be attended on that date. Having occasion to move it on the twenty-fourth, I peeped in and found half my caterpillars out and starved, proving that they had been hatched at least thirty-six hours or longer; half the others so feeble they soon became inactive, and the remainder survived and pupated. But if the time specified had been allowed to elapse, every caterpillar would have starved.

One of the books I read preparatory to doing this work asserts concerning spinners: "Most caterpillars make some sort of cocoon or shelter, which may be of pure silk neatly wound, or of silk mixed with hair and all manner of external things -- such as pieces of leaf, bark, moss, and lichen, and even grains of earth."

Study the Ensuing Illustrations

I have had caterpillars spin by the hundred, in boxes containing most of these things, have gathered outdoor cocoons by the peck, and microscopically examined dozens of them, and with the exception of leaf, twig, bark, or some other foundation against which it was spun, I never have seen a cocoon with shred, filament, or particle of anything used in its composition that was not drawn from the spinning tube or internal organism of the caterpillar, with the possible exception of a few hairs from the tubercles. I have been told by other workers that they have had captive caterpillars use earth and excrement in their cocoons. Study the ensuing illustrations closely and you can see for yourself what my experience has been.

This same work, in an article on protective colouration, lays emphasis on the statement that among pupa cases artificially fastened to different objects out of doors, "the elimination was ninety-two per cent on fences where pupae were conspicuous, as against fifty-two per cent among nettles, where they were inconspicuous." This statement is elaborated and commented upon as making a strong point for colourative protection through inconspicuousness.

Personally, I think the nettles did the work, regardless of colour. I have learned to much experience afield that a patch of nettles or thistles afford splendid protection to any form of life that can survive them. I have seen insects and nesting birds find a safety in their shelter, unknown to their kind that home elsewhere. The test is not fair enough to be worth consideration. If these same pupae had been as conspicuously placed as on the fence, on any edible growth, in the same location as the fence, and then left to the mercy of playing children, grazing stock, field mice, snakes, bats, birds, insects and parasites, the story of what happened to them would have been different. I doubt very seriously if it would have proved the point those lepidopterists started out to make in these conditions, which are the only fair ones under which such an experiment could be made.

In this work I became intensely interested in the location of the auditory organs the extent of mouth development among moths that do not feed. I asked Professor Rowley to send me a list of reliable works that discussed moth anatomy, from which I telegraphed my book dealer for the three most highly recommended. On their prompt arrival I took up an imposing big volume, for which I paid five dollars, its contents devoted exclusively to moths, and eagerly turned to anatomy. There I found this: "The reader who desires to ascertain the names and the function of the various organs of the body of moths may consult in this connection the corresponding portion of the 'Butterfly Book,' in which the principal facts have been fully set forth as to the diurnal lipidoptera." In other words, "Telegraph again and pay five dollars for my 'Butterfly Book' in order to learn what you wish to know concerning the anatomy of moths." Possibly this is fair, but I cannot seem to realize it. So it has gone, times innumerable, until I have come to feel safe only when I prove my own salvation by finding out what I desire to know through personal experience.

Many people mentioned in connexion with the specimens they brought me have been more than kind in helping to collect the material this volume contains; but its publication scarcely would have been possible to me had it not been for the enthusiasm of one girl who prefers not to be mentioned and the work of a seventeen-year-old boy, Raymond Miller. He has been my sole helper in many difficult days of field work among the birds, and for the moths his interest reached such a pitch that he spent many hours afield in search of eggs, caterpillars, cocoons, and moths, when my work confined me to the cabin. He has carried to me many of my rarest cocoons, and found in their native haunts several moths needed to complete the book. It is to be hoped that these wonderful days afield have brought their own compensation, for kindness such as his I never can reward adequately. The book proves my indebtedness to the Deacon and to Molly-Cotton. I also owe thanks to Bob Burdette Black, the oldest and warmest friend of my bird work, for many fine moths and cocoons, and to Professor R. R. Rowley for the laborious task of scientifically criticizing this book and with unparalleled kindness lending a helping hand where an amateur stumbled.

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Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:44 pm


Citheronia Regalis Scattering Pearls


If you are too fastidious to read this chapter, it will be your permanent loss, for it contains the life history, the evolution of one of the most amazingly complicated and delicately beautiful creatures in existence. There are moths that come into the world, accomplish the functions that perpetuate their kind, and go out, without having taken any nourishment. There are others that feed and live for a season. Some fly in the morning, others in the glare of noon, more in the evening, and the most important class of big, exquisitely lovely ones only at night. This explains why so many people never have seen them, and it is a great pity, for the nocturnal, non-feeding moths are birdlike in size, flower-like in rare and complicated colouring, and of downy, silent wing.

Modest and Lovely Modesta

The moths that fly by day and feed are of the Sphinginae group, Celeus and Carolina, or Choerocampinae, which includes the exquisite Deilephila Lineata, and its cousins; also Sphingidae, which cover the clear-winged Hemaris diffinis and Thysbe. Among those that fly at night only and take no food are the members of what is called the Attacine group, comprising our largest and commonest moth, Cecropia; also its near relative Gloveri, smaller than Cecropia and of lovely rosy wine colour; Angulifera, the male greyish brown, the female yellowish red; Promethea, the male resembling a monster Mourning Cloak butterfly and the female bearing exquisite red-wine flushings; Cynthia, beautiful in shades of olive green, sprinkled with black, crossed by bands of pinkish lilac and bearing crescents partly yellow, the remainder transparent. There are also the deep yellow Io, pale blue-green Luna, and Polyphemus, brown with pink bands of the Saturniidae; and light yellow, red-brown and grey Regalis, and lavender and yellow Imperialis of the Ceratocampidae, and their relatives. Modest and lovely Modesta belongs with the Smerinthinae group; and there are others, feeders and non-feeders, forming a list too long to incorporate, for I have not mentioned the Catocalae family, the fore-wings of which resemble those of several members of the Sphinginae, in colour, and when they take flight, the back ones flash out colours that run the gamut from palest to deepest reds, yellows, and browns, crossed by wide circling bands of black; with these, occasionally the black so predominates that it appears as if the wing were black and the bands of other colour. All of them are so exquisitely beautiful that neither the most exacting descriptions, nor photographs from life, nor water colours faithfully copied from living subjects can do them justice. They must be seen alive, newly emerged, down intact, colours at their most brilliant shadings, to be appreciated fully. With the exception of feeding or refraining from eating, the life processes of all these are very similar.

Moths are divided into three parts, the head, thorax, and abdomen, with the different organs of each. The head carries the source of sight, scent, and the mouth parts, if the moth feeds, while the location of the ears is not yet settled definitely. Some scientists place hearing in the antennae, others in a little organ on each side [of] the base of the abdomen. Packard writes: "The eyes are large and globose and vary in the distance apart in different families," but fails to tell what I want to know most: the range and sharpness of their vision. Another writer states that the eyes are so incomplete in development that a moth only can distinguish light from darkness and cannot discern your approach at over five feet.

This accords with my experience with Cecropia, Polyphemus, Regalis, and Imperialis. Luna either can see better, hear acutely, or is naturally of more active habit. It is difficult to capture by hand in daytime, and Promethea acts as if its vision were even clearer. This may be the case, as it flies earlier in the day than any of the others named, being almost impossible to take by hand unless it is bound to a given spot by sex attraction. Unquestionably the day fliers that feed -- the Sphinginae and Choerocampinae groups -- have fairly good vision, as also the little "Clearwings" tribe, for they fly straight to the nectar-giving flowers and fruits they like best to feed upon, and it is extra good luck if you capture one by hand or even with a net. It must be remembered that all of them see and go to a bright light at night from long distances.

Holland writes: "The eyes of moths are often greatly developed," but makes no definite statements as to their range of vision, until he reaches the Catocalae family, of which he records: "The hind wings are, however, most brilliantly coloured. In some species they are banded with pink, in others with crimson; still others have markings of yellow, orange, or snowy white on a background of jet black. These colours are distinctive of the species to a greater or less extent. They are only displayed at night. The conclusion is irresistibly forced upon us that the eyes of these creatures are capable of discriminating these colours in the darkness. We cannot do it. No human eye in the blackness of the night can distinguish red from orange or crimson from yellow. The human eye is the greatest of all anatomical marvels, and the most wonderful piece of animal mechanism in the world, but not all of power is lodged within it. There are other allied mechanisms which have the power of responding to certain forms of radiant energy to a degree which it does not possess."

This conclusion is not "irresistibly forced" upon me. I do believe, know in fact, that all day-flying, feeding moths have keener sight and longer range of vision than non-feeders; but I do not believe the differing branches of the Catocalae group, or moths of any family, locate each other "in the blackness of night," by seeing markings distinctly. I can think of no proof that moths, butterflies or any insects recognize or appreciate colour. Male moths mate with females of their kind distinctly different from them in colour, and male butterflies pair with albinos of their species, when these differ widely from the usual colouring.

A few moths are also provided with small simple eyes called ocelli; these are placed on top of the head and are so covered with down they cannot be distinguished save by experts. Mueller believes that these are for the perception of objects close to a moth while the compound eyes see farther, but he does not prove it.

If the moth does not feed, the mouth parts are scarcely developed. If a feeder, it has a long tongue that can be coiled in a cleft in the face between the palpi, which Packard thinks were originally the feelers. This tongue is formed of two grooved parts so fastened together as to make a tube through which it takes flower and fruit nectar and the juices of decaying animal matter.

What are thought by some to be small organs of touch lie on either side the face, but the exact use of these is yet under discussion. It is woefully difficult to learn some of these things.

In my experience the antennae, are the most sensitive, and therefore the most important organs of the head -- to me. In the Attacine group these stand out like delicately cut tiny fern fronds or feathers, always being broader and more prominent on the male. Other families are very similar and again they differ widely. You will find moths having pointed hair-like antennae; others heaviest at the tip in club shape, or they may be of even proportion but flat, or round, or a feathered shaft so fine as to be unnoticed as it lies pressed against the face. Some writers say the antennae are the seat of scent, touch, and hearing. I had not thought nature so impoverished in evolving her forms as to overwork one delicate little organ for three distinct purposes. The antennae are situated close where the nose is, in almost every form of life, and I would prefer to believe that they are the organs of scent and feeling. I know a moth suffers most over any injury to them, but one takes flight no quicker or more precipitately at a touch on the antennae than on the head, wing, leg, or abdomen.

Moth Mullein

We are safe in laying down a law that antennae are homologous organs and used for identical purposes on all forms of life carrying them. The short antennae of grasshoppers appear to be organs of scent. The long hair-fine ones of katydids and crickets may be also, but repeatedly I have seen these used to explore the way ahead over leaves and limbs, the insect feeling its path and stepping where a touch assures it there is safe footing. Katydids, crickets, and grasshoppers all have antennae, and all of these have ears definitely located; hence their feelers are not for auricular purposes. According to my logic those of the moth cannot be either. I am quite sure that primarily they serve the purpose of a nose, as they are too short in most cases to be of much use as 'feelers,' although that is undoubtedly their secondary office. If this be true, it explains the larger organs of the male. The female emerges from winter quarters so weighted with carrying from two to six hundred eggs, that she usually remains and develops where she is. This throws the business of finding her location on the male. He is compelled to take wing and hunt until he discovers her; hence his need of more acute sense of scent and touch. The organ that is used most is the one that develops in the evolution of any form of life.

I can well believe that the antennae are most important to a moth, for a broken one means a spoiled study for me. It starts the moth tremulously shivering, aimlessly beating, crazy, in fact, and there is no hope of it posing for a picture. Doctor Clemens records that Cecropia could neither walk nor fly, but wheeled in a senseless manner when deprived of its antennae. This makes me sure that they are the seat of highest sensibility, for I have known in one or two cases of chloroformed moths reviving and without struggle or apparent discomfort, depositing eggs in a circle around them, while impaled to a setting board with a pin thrust through the thorax where it of necessity must have passed through or very close [to] the nervous cord and heart.

The moth is covered completely with silken down like tiny scales, coloured and marked according to species, and so lightly attached that it adheres to the cocoon on emergence and clings to the fingers at the lightest touch. From the examination of specimens I have taken that had disfigured themselves, it appears that a moth rubbed bare of down would seem as if covered with thinly cut, highly polished horn, fastened together in divisions. This is called 'chitine' by scientists.

The thorax bears four wings, and six legs, each having five joints and ending in tiny claws. The wings are many-veined membranous sacs, covered with scales that are coloured according to species and arranged to form characteristic family markings. They are a framework usually of twelve hollow tubes or veins that are so connected with the respiratory organs as to be pneumatic. These tubes support double membranes covered above and below with down. At the bases of the wings lie their nerves. The fore-wings each have a heavy rib running from the base and gradually decreasing to the tip. This is called the costa. Its purpose is to bear the brunt of air-pressure in flight. On account of being compelled to fly so much more than the females, the back wings of the males of many species have developed a secondary rib that fits under and supports the front, also causing both to work together with the same impulse to flight. A stiff bunch of bristles serves the same purpose in most females, while some have a lobe extending from the fore-wing. As long as the costa remains unbroken to preserve balance, a moth that has become entangled in bushes or suffered rough treatment from birds can fly with badly damaged wing surfaces.

In some species, notably the Attacine group and all non-feeding, night-flying moths, the legs are short, closely covered with long down of the most delicate colours of the moth, and sometimes decorated with different shades. Luna has beautiful lavender legs, Imperialis yellow, and RegaIis red-brown. The day-flying, feeding group have longer, slenderer legs, covered with shorter down, and carry more elaborate markings. This provision is to enable them to cling firmly to flower or twig while feeding, to help them to lift the body higher, and walk dextrously in searching for food. It is also noticeable that these moths have, for their size, comparatively much longer, slenderer wings than the non-feeders, and they can turn them back and fold them together in the fly position, thus enabling them to force their way into nectar-bearing flowers of trumpet shape.

The abdomen is velvet soft to the touch, and divided into rings called segments, these being so joined that this member can be turned and twisted at will. In all cases the last ring contains the sex organs. The large abdomen of the female carries several hundred embryo eggs, and that of the male the seminal fluid.

Much has been written of moths being able to produce odours that attract the sexes, and that are so objectionable as to protect them from birds, mice, and bats. Some believe there are scent glands in a few species under the wing scales. I have critically examined scores of wings as to colour markings, but never noticed or smelled these. On some, tufts of bristlelike hairs can be thrust out, that give a discernible odour; but that this carries any distance or is a large factor in attracting the sexes I do not believe so firmly, after years of practical experience, as I did in the days when I had most of my moth history from books. I have seen this theory confounded so often in practice.

Cocoon Inside Hollow Log

In June of 1911, close [to] six o'clock in the evening, I sat on the front veranda of the Cabin, in company with my family, and watched three moths sail past us and around the corner, before I remembered that on the screen of the music-room window to the east there was a solitary female Promethea moth, that day emerged from a cocoon sent me by Professor Rowley. I hurried to the room and found five male moths fluttering before the screen or clinging to the wild grape and sweet brier vines covering it. I opened the adjoining window and picked up three of the handsomest with my fingers, placing them inside the screen. Then I returned to the veranda. Moths kept coming. We began studying the conditions.

The female had emerged in the dining room on the west side of the cabin. On account of the intense heat of the afternoon sun, that side of the building had been tightly closed all day. At four o'clock the moth was placed on the east window, because it was sheltered with vines. How soon the first male found her, I do not know. There was quite a stiff evening breeze blowing from the west, so that any odour from her would have been carried on east. We sat there and watched and counted six more moths, every one of which came down wind from the west, flying high, above the treetops in fact, and from the direction of a little tree-filled plot called Studabaker's woods. Some of them we could distinguish almost a block away coming straight toward the Cabin, and sailing around the eastern corner with the precision of hounds on a hot trail. How they knew, the Almighty knows; I do not pretend to; but that there was odour distilled by that one female, practically imperceptible to us (she merely smelled like a moth), yet of such strength as to penetrate screen, vines, and roses and reach her kind a block away, against considerable breeze, I never shall believe.

When it comes to the statement that moths have a skunk-like power of ejecting odours so disagreeable as to protect them from mice, birds, and bats, it appeals to me as amusing. Of course I have taken my punishment for locating the cows with "grand-daddy-long-legs," and had my red raspberries flavoured by the passing of the "stink-bug," so I admit the peculiar odour of several forms of insects. But when we consider the unmentionable matter that a hungry mouse will eat, the outbuildings it infests, the drain pipes and sewers through which it will travel; when we see some of our most exquisite songsters placidly dining from the fresh droppings of cattle and horses in the fields; when we remember the high-piled excrement and the odour of a bat lodge in a hollow tree, where these creatures sleep all day, we are led to wonder what there could be in the double distilled odour of a Cecropoia, the muskies of all moths to me, that would serve to deter mice, birds, and bats from attacking it.

The fact is, that moths smell like other moths of the same species, and within a reasonable radius they undoubtedly attract each other. In the same manner birds carry a birdlike odour, and snakes, frogs, fish, bees, and all animals have a scent peculiar to themselves. No dog mistakes the odour of a cat for that of another dog. A cow does not follow the scent of horses to find other cattle. No moth hunts a dragon-fly, a butterfly, or in my experience, even a moth of another species in its search for a mate. How male moths work the miracles I have seen them accomplish in locating females, I cannot explain. As the result of acts we see them perform, we credit some forms of life with much keener scent than others, and many with having the power more highly developed than people. The only standard by which we can determine the effect that the odour of one insect, bird, or animal has upon another is by the effect it has upon us. That a male moth can smell a female a block away, against the wind, when I can detect only a faint musky odour within a foot of her, I do not credit.

Primarily the business of moths is to meet, mate, and deposit eggs that will produce more moths. This is all of life with those that do not take food. That they add the completing touch and most beautiful form of life to a few exquisite May and June nights is their extra good fortune, not any part of the affair of living. With moths that feed and live after reproduction, mating and egg placing comes first. In all cases the rule is much the same. The moths emerge, dry their wings, and reach full development the first day. In freedom, the females being weighted with eggs seldom attempt to fly. They remain where they are, thrust out the egg placer from the last ring of the abdomen and wait. By ten o'clock the males, in such numbers as to amaze a watcher, find them and remain until almost morning. Broad antennae, slenderer abdomen, and the claspers used in holding the female in mating, smaller wings and more brilliant markings are the signs by which the male can be told in most cases. In several of the Attacine group, notably Promethea, the male and female differ widely in markings and colour. Among the other non-feeders the difference is slight. The male Regalis has the longest, most gracefully curved abdomen and the most prominent claspers of any moth I ever examined; but the antennae are so delicate and closely pressed against the face most of the time as to be concealed until especially examined. I have noticed that among the moths bearing large, outstanding antennae, the claspers are less prominent than with those having small, inconspicuous head parts. A fine pair of antennae, carried forward as by a big, fully developed Cecropia, are as ornamental to the moth as splendidly branching antlers are to the head of a deer.

The female now begins egg placing. This requires time, as one of these big night moths deposits from three hundred and fifty to over six hundred eggs. These lie in embryonic state in the abdomen of the female. At her maturity they ripen rapidly. When they are ready to deposit, she is forced to place them whether she has mated or not. In case a mate has found her, a small pouch near the end of her abdomen is filled with a fluid that touches each egg in passing and renders it fertile. The eggs differ with species and are placed according to family characteristics. They may be pure white, pearl-coloured, grey, greenish, or yellow. There are round, flat, and oblong eggs. These are placed differently in freedom and captivity. A moth in a natural location glues her eggs, often one at a time, on the under or upper side of leaves. Sometimes she dots several in a row, or again makes a number of rows, like a little beaded mat. One authority I have consulted states that "The eggs are always laid by the female in a state of freedom upon the food-plant which is most congenial to the larvae." This has not "always" been the case in my experience. I have found eggs on stone walls, boards, fences, outbuildings, and on the bark of dead trees and stumps as well as living, even on the ground. This also has been the case with the women who wrote "Caterpillars and their Moths," the most invaluable work on the subject ever compiled.

A captive moth feels and resents her limitations. I cannot force one to mate even in a large box. I must free her in the conservatory, in a room, or put her on an outside window or door screen. Under these conditions one will place her eggs more nearly as in freedom; but this makes them difficult to find and preserve. Placed in a box and forced by nature to deposit her eggs, as a rule, she will remain in one spot and heap them up until she is forced to move to make room for more. One big female Regalis of the last chapter of this book placed them a thimbleful at a time; but the little caterpillars came rolling out in all directions when due. In my experience, they finish in four or five nights, although I have read of moths having lived and placed eggs for ten, some species being said to have deposited over a thousand. Seven days is usually the limit of life for these big night moths with me; they merely grow inactive and sluggish until the very last, when almost invariably they are seized with a muscular attack, in which they beat themselves to rags and fringes, as if resisting the overcoming lethargy. It is because of this that I have been forced to resort to the gasoline bottle a few times when I found it impossible to paint from the living moth; but I do not put one to sleep unless I am compelled.


I never have been able to induce a female to mate after confinement had driven her to begin depositing her eggs, not even under the most favourable conditions I could offer, although others record that they have been so fortunate. Repeatedly I have experimented with males and females of different species, but with no success. I have not seem a polygamous moth, but have read of experiences with them.

Sometimes the eggs have a smooth surface, again they may be ridged or like hammered brass or silver. The shells are very thin and break easily. At one side a place can be detected where the fertilizing fluid enters. The coming caterpillar begins to develop at once and emerges in from six to thirty days, with the exception of a few eggs placed in the fall that produce during the following spring. The length of the egg period differs with species and somewhat with the same moths, according to suitable or unfavourable placing, and climatic conditions. Do not accept the experience of anyone if you have eggs you very much desire to be productive of the caterpillars of rare moths; after six days take a peep every day if you would be on the safe side. With many species the shells are transparent, and for the last few days before emergence the growth of the little caterpillars can be watched through them.

When matured they break or eat a hole in their shells and emerge, seeming much too large for the space they occupied. Family characteristics show at once. Many of them immediately turn and eat their shells as if starving; others are more deliberate. Some grace around for a time as if exercising and then return and eat their shells; others walk briskly away and do not dine on shell for the first meal. Usually all of them rest close [to] twenty-four hours before beginning on leaves. Once they commence feeding in favourable conditions they eat enormously and grow so rapidly they soon become too large for their skins to hold them another instant; so they pause and stop eating for a day or two while new skin forms. Then the old is discarded and eaten for a first meal, with the exception of the face covering. At the same time the outer skin is cast the intestinal lining is thrown off, and practically a new caterpillar, often bearing different markings, begins to feed again.

These moults occur from four to six times in the development of the caterpillar; at each it emerges larger, brighter, often with other changes of colour, and eats more voraciously as it grows. With me, in handling caterpillars about which I am anxious, their moulting time is critical. I lost many until I learned to clean their boxes thoroughly the instant they stopped eating and leave them alone until they exhibited hunger signs again. They eat greedily of the leaves preferred by each species, doing best when the foliage is washed and drops of water left for them to drink as they would find dew and rain out of doors. Professor Thomson, of the chair of Natural History of the University of Aberdeen, makes this statement in his "Biology of the Seasons," "Another feature in the life of caterpillars is their enormous appetite. Some of them seem never to stop eating, and a species of Polyphemus is said to eat eighty-six thousand times its own weight in a day." I notice Doctor Thomson does not say that he knows this, but uses the convenient phrase, "it is said." This is an utter impossibility. The skin of no living creature will contain eighty-six thousand times its own weight in a day. I have raised enough caterpillars to know that if one ate three times its own weight in a day it would have performed a skin-stretching feat. Long after writing this, but before the manuscript left my hands, I found that the origin of this statement lies in a table compiled by Trouvelot, in which he estimates that a Polyphemus caterpillar ten days old weighs one half grain, or ten times its original weight; at twenty days three grains, or sixty times its first weight; and so on until at fifty-six days it weighs two hundred and seven grains, or four thousand one hundred and forty times its first weight. To this he adds one half ounce of water and concludes: "So the food taken by a single silkworm in fifty-six days equals in weight eighty-six thousand times the primitive weight of the worm." This is a far cry from eating eighty-six thousand times its own weight in a day and upholds in part my contention in the first chapter, that people attempting to write upon these subjects "are not always rightly informed."

When the feeding period is finished in freedom, the caterpillar, if hairless, must be ready to evolve from its interior the principal part of the winter quarters characteristic of its species while changing to the moth form, and in the case of non-feeders, sustenance for the lifetime of the moth also. Similar to the moth, the caterpillar is made up of three parts, head, thorax, and abdomen, with the organs and appendages of each. Immediately after moulting the head appears very large, and seems much too heavy for the size of the body. At the end of a feeding period and just previous to another moult the body has grown until the head is almost lost from sight, and it now seems small and insignificant; so that the appearance of a caterpillar depends on whether you examine it before or after moulting.

The head is made up of rings or segments, the same as the body, but they are so closely set that it seems to be a flat, round, or pointed formation with discernible rings on the face before casting time. The eyes are of so simple form that they are supposed only to distinguish light from darkness. The complicated mouth is at the lower part of the head. It carries a heavy pair of cutters with which the caterpillar bites off large pieces of leaf, a first pair of grinders with which it macerates the food, and a second pair that join in forming the under lip. There is also the tube that connects with the silk glands and ends in the spinneret. Through this tube a fluid is forced that by movements of the head the caterpillar attaches where it will and draws into fine threads that at once harden in silk. This organism is sufficiently developed for use in a newly emerged caterpillar, for it can spin threads by which to drop from leaf to leaf or to guide it back to a starting point.

Caterpillar at Maturity

The thorax is covered by the first three rings behind the head, and on it are six legs, two on each segment. The remainder of the caterpillar is abdominal and carries small pro-legs with which to help it cling to twigs and leaves, and the heavy anal props that support the vent. By using these and several of the pro-legs immediately before them, the caterpillar can cling and erect the front part of the body so that it can strike from side to side when disturbed. In the case of caterpillars that have a horn, as Celeus, or sets of them as Regalis, in this attitude they really appear quite formidable, and often I have seen them drive away small birds, while many people flee shrieking.

There are little tubes that carry air to the trachea, as caterpillars have no lungs and can live with a very small amount of air.

The skin may be rough, granulated, or soft and fine as silk, and in almost every instance of exquisite colour: bluish green, greenish blue, wonderful yellows and from pale to deep wine red, many species having oblique touches of contrasting colours on the abdominal rings. Others are marked with small projections of bright colours from which tufts of hair or bristles may grow. In some, as Io, these bristles are charged with an irritating acid that will sting for an hour after coming in contact with the skin, but does no permanent injury. On a few there are what seem to be small pockets of acid that can be ejected with a jerk, and on some a sort of filament that is supposed to distil a disagreeable odour. As the caterpillar only uses these when disturbed, it is safe to presume that they are placed for defence, but as in the case of moths I doubt their efficacy.

Some lepidopterists have thought the sex of a moth could be regulated by the amount of food given the caterpillar; but with my numerous other doubts I include this. It is all of a piece with any attempt at sex regulation. I regard it as morally certain that sex goes back to the ovary and that the egg produced yields a male or female caterpillar in the beginning. I am becoming convinced that caterpillars recognize sex in each other, basing the theory on the facts that in half a dozen instances I have found cocoons, spun only a few inches apart. One pair brought to me was interwoven. Two of these are shown in the following chapter. In all cases a male and female emerged within a few minutes of each other and mated as soon as possible. If a single pair of these cocoons ever had produced two of a kind, it would give rise to doubts. When all of them proved to be male and female that paired, it seems to me to furnish conclusive evidence that the caterpillars knew what they were doing, and spun in the same place for the purpose of appearing together.

At maturity, usually near five weeks, the full-fed caterpillar rests a day, empties the intestines, and races around searching for a suitable place to locate winter quarters. With burrowing caterpillars that winter in pupa cases, soft earth or rotting wood is found and entered by working their way with the heads and closing it with the hind parts. At the desired depth they push in all directions with such force that a hollow larger, but shaped as a hen's egg, is worked out; usually this is six or more inches below the surface. So compactly is the earth forced back, that fall rains, winter's alternate freezing and thawing, always a mellowing process, and spring downpours do not break up the big ball, often larger than a quart bowl, that surrounds the case of the pupa. It has been thought by some and recorded, that this ball is held in place by spinning or an acid ejected by the caterpillar. I never have heard of anyone else who has had my luck in lifting these earth balls intact, opening, and photographing them and their contents. I have examined them repeatedly and carefully. I can find not the slightest trace of spinning or adhesion other than by force.

With one of these balls lifted and divided, we decided what happened underground by detaining a caterpillar on the surface and forcing it to transform before us, for this change is not optional. When the time comes the pupa must evolve. So the caterpillar lies on the earth, gradually growing shorter, the skin appearing dry and the horns drooping. There never is a trace of spinning or acid ejected in the sand buckets. When the change is completed there begins a violent twisting and squirming. The caterpillar skin opens in a straight line just behind the head on the back, and by working with the pointed abdomen the pupa case emerges. The cast skin rapidly darkens, and as I never have found a trace of it in an opened earth ball in the spring, I suppose it disintegrates rapidly, or what is more possible, is eaten by small borers that swarm through the top six inches of the earth's crust.

Carolina; Pupa Case of Feeder and Non-Feeder; Regalis

The pupa is thickly coated with a sticky substance that seems to serve the double purpose of facilitating its exit from the caterpillar skin and to dry over it in a glossy waterproof coating. At first the pupa is brownish green and flattened, but as it dries it rapidly darkens in colour and assumes the shape of a perfect specimen. Concerning this stage of the evolution of a moth the doctors disagree. One prominent writer has this to say: "Investigations have shown that the organs of the moth are not fully developed in the pupa until it is nearly time for the moth to emerge, but the development is rapid when it once begins." Then follow elaborate descriptions of how the caterpillar organs break down and those required by the moth build up. Holland writes: "The pupa case contains within it the moth, as may easily be ascertained by careful dissection made in the very earliest period after the change has occurred, and which becomes very evident at a later time when the period of the pupal life is drawing to its close." The italics are mine. I heartily agree with this.

Scattered throughout this book there are many photographic studies of pupa cases, made almost without exception as soon as the case had dried and taken shape. Microscopic examination of these will show you, even after the loss sustained by any print in reproduction is allowed, that at the time the pupa case emerges from the caterpillar skin, the exterior of the moth is perfectly outlined. The head, thorax, and abdomen are sharply defined. You can see the location and exact shape of the eyes, the ocelli and hooks on the head, if it is a moth of a species having these organs. You can see the mouth, and the antennae, so perfectly formed as to disclose the sex of the coming moth by their width. There are the legs, developed and laid in rows of three over the thorax on each under side. There are the wings folding over the legs; each ring of the abdomen is clearly outlined; the anal formation shows so distinctly, sex frequently can be told by the presence of the claspers, in case the moth is a male, on which these organs are very prominent, as Regalis. If it is a feeder the long tongue lies enclosed in its tube, turning down and fastening on the under part of the thorax between the wing shields.

I cannot name any form of insect, bird, animal, or human complete to formation of eye, mouth, tongue, shape of body, legs, sex organism even, that is incomplete and undeveloped in the interior. It may be the case with moths, but it does not seem reasonable. I could settle this question for myself by picking a case to pieces and dissecting the contents; but being merely a Nature Lover I am not much concerned about the inside of a moth. Its externals are so exquisite I am deterred from ruining one to prove a point that does not trouble me. I merely make these observations to put you on your guard when it comes to regarding the printed page as infallible. If you are studying this most fragile phase of life with which I am acquainted, you need not take the word of any one. Find out for yourself, and use all the common sense the Almighty has bestowed upon you, in arriving at your conclusions.

The emergence I have watched repeatedly, studied photographically, and recorded in the tabulated records from which I wrote the following life histories. At time to appear I believe the pupa bores its way with the sharp point of the abdomen; at least I have seen Celeus, and Carolina, Regalis and Imperialis coming through the surface, abdomen tip first. Once free, they press with the feet against the wing shields, burst them away and leave the case at the thorax. Each moth I ever have seen emerge has been wet and the empty case damp inside. I have poured three large drops of pinkish liquid the consistency of thin cream from the abdominal rings of a Regalis case. Undoubtedly this liquid is ejected by the moth to enable it to break loose from and leave the case with its delicate down intact. The furry scales of its covering are so loosely set that any violent struggle with dry down would disfigure the moth.

Among Cecropia and its Attacine cousins, also Luna, Polyphemus, and all other spinners the process is practically the same, save that it is much more elaborate; most of all with Cecropia, that spins the largest cocoon I ever have seen, and it varies its work more than any of the others. Lengthwise of a slender twig it spins a long, slim cocoon; on a board or wall, roomier and wider at the bottom, and inside hollow trees, and under bridges, big baggy quarters of exquisite reddish tan colours that do not fade as do those exposed to the weather. The typical cocoon of the species is that spun on a fence or outbuilding, not the slender work on the alders or the elaborate quarters of the bridge. On a board the process is to cover the space required with a fine spinning that glues firmly to the wood. Then the worker takes a firm grip with the anal props and lateral feet and begins drawing out long threads that start at the top, reach down one side, across the bottom and back to the top again, where each thread is cut and another begun. As long as the caterpillar can be seen through its work, it remains in the same position and throws the head back and around to carry the threads. I never thought of counting these movements while watching a working spinner, but someone who has, estimates that Polyphemus, that spins a cocoon not one fourth the size of Cecropia, moves the head a quarter of a million times in guiding the silk thread. When a thin webbing is spun and securely attached all around the edges it is pushed out in the middle and gummed all over the inside with a liquid glue that oozes through, coalesces and hardens in a waterproof covering. Then a big nest of crinkly silk threads averaging from three to four inches in length are spun, running from the top down one side, up the other, and the cut ends drawn closely together. One writer states that this silk has no commercial value, while Packard thinks it has. I attach greater weight to his opinion. Next comes the inner case. For this the caterpillar loosens its hold and completely surrounds itself with a small case of compact work. This in turn is saturated with the glue and forms in a thick, tough case, rough on the outside, the top not so solidly spun as the other walls; inside dark brown and worn so smooth it seems as if oiled, from the turning of the caterpillar. In this little chamber close [to] the length and circumference of an average sized woman's two top joints of the first finger, the caterpillar transforms to the pupa stage, crowding its cast skin in a wad at the bottom.

At time for emergence the moth bursts the pupa case, which is extremely thin and papery compared with the cases of burrowing species. We know by the wet moth that liquid is ejected, although we cannot see the wet spot on the top of the inner case of Cecropia as we can with Polyphemus, that does not spin the loose outer case and silk nest. From here on the moths emerge according to species. Some work with their mouths and forefeet. Some have rough projections on the top of the head, and others little sawlike arrangements at the bases of the wings. In whatever manner they free themselves, all of them are wet when they leave their quarters. Sometimes the gathered silk ends comb sufficient down from an emerging Cecropia to leave a terra cotta rim around the opening from which it came; but I never saw one lose enough at this time to disfigure it. On very rare occasions a deformed moth appears. I had a Cecropia with one wing no larger than my thumb nail, and it never developed. This is caused by the moth sustaining an injury to the wing in emergence. If the membrane is slightly punctured the liquid forced into the wing for its development escapes and there is no enlargement.

Also, in rare instances, a moth is unable to escape at all and is lost if it is not assisted; but this is precarious business and should not be attempted unless you are positive the moth will die if you do not interfere. The struggle it takes to emerge is a part of the life process of the moth and quickens its circulation and develops its strength for the affairs of life afterward. If the feet have a steady pull to drag forth the body, they will be strong enough to bear its weight while the wings dry and develop.

Winter Quarters

All lepidopterists mention the wet condition of the moths when they emerge. Some explain that an acid is ejected to soften the pupa case so that the moth can cut its way out; others go a step farther and state that the acid is from the mouth. I am extremely curious about this. I want to know just what this acid is and where it comes from. I know of no part of the thorax provided with a receptacle for the amount of liquid used to flood a case, dampen a moth, and leave several drops in the shell. Holland writes on page eleven of his "Moth Book": "When emergence from a cocoon occurs, the insect is provided with the power of ejecting from its mouth a fluid, which has the property of dissolving and cutting the silken threads." On page twelve we read: "In other cases, as in the family of the Saturniidae and Bombycidae, the proboscis is very feebly developed or aborted. In fact, we know that some of these creatures are without mouths, and that they do not partake of nourishment in the winged state." Now the Saturniidae covers the whole Attacine group, and Luna, Polyphemus, and Io as well. You will observe that these are some of the most important moths herein reproduced and described. If they have no mouths, how can they eject all this fluid from them?

Life Size Pupa Case of Earth

As soon as a moth can find a suitable place to cling after it is out, it hangs by the feet and dries the wings and down. Long before it is dry if you try to move a moth or cause disturbance, it will eject several copious jets of a spray from the abdomen that appears, smells and tastes precisely like the liquid found in the abandoned case. If protected from the lightest touch it will do the same. It appeals to me that this liquid is abdominal, partly thrown off to assist the moth in emergence; something very like that bath of birth which accompanies and facilitates human entrance into the world. It helps the struggling moth in separating from the case, wets the down so that it will pass the small opening, reduces the large abdomen so that it will escape the exit, and softens the case and silk where the moth is working. With either male or female the increase in size is so rapid that neither could be returned to their cases five minutes after they have left them.

It is generally supposed that the spray thrown by a developing moth is for the purpose of attracting others of its kind. I have my doubts. With moths that have been sheltered and not even touched by a breath of wind, this spray is thrown very frequently before the moth is entirely dry, long before it is able to fly and before the ovipositor is thrust out. According to my sense of smell there is very little odour to the spray and what there is would be dissipated hours before night and time for the moths to fly and seek mates. I do not think that the spray thrown so soon after escape from cocoon or case is to attract the sexes, any farther than that much of it in one place on something that it would saturate might leave a general 'mothy' odour. Some lepidopterists think this spray a means of defence; if this is true I fail to see why it should be thrown when there is nothing disturbing the moth.

Many of the spinning moths use leaves for their outer foundation. Some appear as if snugly rolled in a leaf and hanging from a twig, but examination will prove that the stem is silk covered to hold the case when the leaf loosens. This is the rule with all Promethea cocoons I ever have seen. Polyphemus selects a cluster of leaves, very frequently thorn, and weaves its cocoon against three, drawing them together and spinning a support the length of the stems, so that when the leaf is ready to fall the cocoon is safely anchored. When the winter winds have beaten the edges from the leaves, the cocoon appears as if it were brown, having three ribs with veins running from them, and of triangular shape. Angulifera spins against the leaves but provides no support and so drops to the ground. Luna spins a comparatively thin white case, among the leaves under the shelter of logs and stumps. Io spins so slightly in confinement that the pupa case and cast skin show through. I never have found a pupa out of doors, but this is a ground caterpillar.

Sometimes the caterpillar has been stung and had an egg placed in its skin by a parasite, before pupation. In such case the pupa is destroyed by the developing fly. Throughout one winter I was puzzled by the light weight of what appeared to be a good Polyphemus cocoon, and at time for emergence amazed by the tearing and scratching inside the cocoon, until what I think was an Ophion fly appeared. It was honey yellow, had antennae long as its extremely long body, the abdomen of which was curved and the segments set together so as to appear notched. The wings were transparent and the insect it seems is especially designed to attack Polyphemus caterpillars and help check a progress that otherwise might become devastating. (See opposite page.)

Among the moths that do not feed, the year of their evolution is divided into about seven days for the life of the moth, from fifteen to thirty for the eggs, from five to six weeks for the caterpillar and the remainder of the time in the pupa stage. The rule differs with feeding moths only in that after mating and egg placing they take food and live several months, often until quite heavy frosts have fallen.

One can admire to fullest extent the complicated organism, wondrous colouring, and miraculous life processes in the evolution of a moth, but that is all. Their faces express nothing; their attitudes tell no story. There is the marvellous instinct through which the males locate the opposite sex of their species, but one cannot see instinct in the face of any creature; it must develop in acts. There is no part of their lives that makes such pictures of mother-love as birds and animals afford. The male finds a mate and disappears. The female places her eggs and goes out before her caterpillars break their shells. The caterpillar transforms to the moth without its consent, the matter in one upbuilding the other. The entire process is utterly devoid of sentiment, attachment or volition on the part of the creatures involved. They work out a law as inevitable as that which swings suns, moons, and planets in their courses. They are the most fragile and beautiful result of natural law with which I am acquainted.

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"Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these
heavy-winged thieves."
-- Shelley

The Robin Moth


When only a little child, wandering alone among the fruits and flowers of our country garden, on a dead peach limb beside the fence I found it -- my first Cecropia. I was the friend of every bird, flower, and butterfly. I carried crumbs to the warblers in the sweetbrier; was lifted for surreptitious peeps at the hummingbird nesting in the honeysuckle; sat within a few feet of the robin in the catalpa; bugged the currant bushes for the phoebe that had built for years under the roof of the corn bin; and fed young blackbirds in the hemlock with worms gathered from the cabbages. I knew how to insinuate myself into the private life of each bird that homed on our farm, and they were many, for we valiantly battled for their protection with every kind of intruder. There were wrens in the knot holes, chippies in the fences, thrushes in the brush heaps, bluebirds in the hollow apple trees, cardinals in the bushes, tanagers in the saplings, flycatchers in the trees, larks in the wheat, bobolinks in the clover, killdeers beside the creeks, swallows in the chimneys, and martins under the barn eaves. My love encompassed all feathered and furred creatures.

My First Cecropia

Every day visits were paid flowers I cared for most. I had been taught not to break the garden blooms, and if a very few of the wild ones were taken, I gathered them carefully, and explained to the plants that I wanted them for my mother because she was so ill she could not come to them any more, and only a few touching her lips or lying on her pillow helped her to rest, and made vivid the fields and woods when the pain was severe.

My love for the butterflies took on the form of adoration. There was not a delicate, gaudy, winged creature of day that did not make so strong an appeal to my heart as to be almost painful. It seemed to me that the most exquisite thoughts of God for our pleasure were materialized in their beauty. My soul always craved colour, and more brilliancy could be found on one butterfly wing than on many flower faces. I liked to slip along the bloom-bordered walks of that garden and stand spell-bound, watching a black velvet butterfly, which trailed wings painted in white, red, and green, as it clambered over a clump of sweet-williams, and indeed, the flowers appeared plain compared with it! Butterflies have changed their habits since then. They fly so high! They are all among the treetops now. They used to flit around the cinnamon pinks, larkspur, ragged-robins and tiger lilies, within easy reach of little fingers, every day. I called them "flying flowers," and it was a pretty conceit, for they really were more delicate in texture and brighter in colouring than the garden blooms.

Having been taught that God created the heavens, earth and all things therein, I understood it to mean a literal creation of each separate thing and creature, as when my father cut down a tree and hewed it into a beam. I would spend hours sitting so immovably among the flowers of our garden that the butterflies would mistake me for a plant and alight on my head and hands, while I strove to conceive the greatness of a Being who could devise and colour all those different butterfly wings. I would try to decide whether He created the birds, flowers, or butterflies first; ultimately coming to the conclusion that He put His most exquisite material into the butterflies, and then did the best He could with what remained, on the birds and flowers.

In my home there was a cellar window on the south, covered with wire screening, that was my individual property. Father placed a box beneath it so that I could reach the sill easily, and there were very few butterflies or insects common to eastern North America a specimen of which had not spent some days on that screen, feasted on leaves and flowers, drunk from saucers of sweetened water, been admired and studied in minutest detail, and then set free to enjoy life as before. With Whitman, "I never was possessed with a mania for killing things." I had no idea of what families they were, and I supplied my own names. The Monarch was the Brown Velvet; the Viceroy was his Cousin; the Argynnis was the Silver Spotted; and the Papillo Ajax was the Ribbon butterfly, in my category. There was some thought of naming Ajax, Dolly Varden, but on close inspection it seemed most to resemble the gayly striped ribbons my sisters wore.

I was far afield as to names, but in later years with only a glance at any specimen I could say, "Oh, yes! I always have known that. It has buff-coloured legs, clubbed antennae with buff tips, wings of purplish brown velvet with escalloped margins, a deep band of buff lightly traced with black bordering them, and a pronounced point close [to] the apex of the front pair. When it came to books, all they had to teach me were the names. I had captured and studied butterflies, big, little, and with every conceivable variety of marking, until it was seldom one was found whose least peculiarity was not familiar to me as my own face; but what could this be?

The Slender Cocoons Spun Lengthwise on Twigs

It clung to the rough bark, slowly opening and closing large wings of grey velvet down, margined with bands made of shades of grey, tan, and black; banded with a broad stripe of red terra cotta colour with an inside margin of white, widest on the back pair. Both pairs of wings were decorated with half-moons of white, outlined in black and strongly flushed with terra cotta; the front pair near the outer margin had oval markings of blue-black, shaded with grey, outlined with half circles of white, and secondary circles of black. When the wings were raised I could see a face of terra cotta, with small eyes, a broad band of white across the forehead, and an abdomen of terra cotta banded with snowy white above, and spotted with white beneath. Its legs were hairy, and the antennae antlered like small branching ferns. Of course I thought it was a butterfly, and for a time was too filled with wonder to move. Then creeping close, the next time the wings were raised above its body, with the nerveless touch of a robust child I captured it.

I was ten miles from home, but I had spent all my life until the last year on that farm, and I knew and loved every foot of it. To leave it for a city home and the confinement of school almost had broken my heart, but it really was time for me to be having some formal education. It had been the greatest possible treat to be allowed to return to the country for a week, but now my one idea was to go home with my treasure. None of my people had seen a sight like that. If they had, they would have told me.

Borrowing a two-gallon stone jar from the tenant's wife, I searched the garden for flowers sufficiently rare for lining. Nothing so pleased me as some gorgeous deep red peony blooms. Never having been allowed to break the flowers when that was my mother's home, I did not think of doing it because she was not there to know. I knelt and gathered all the fallen petals that were fresh, and then spreading my apron on the ground, jarred the plant, not harder than a light wind might, and all that fell in this manner it seemed right to take. The selection was very pleasing, for the yellow glaze of the jar, the rich red of the petals, and the grey velvet of my prize made a picture over which I stood trembling in delight. The moth was promptly christened the Half-luna, because my father had taught me that luna was the moon, and the half moons on the wings were its most prominent markings.

Baggy Twin Cocoons Spun Two Inches Apart

The tenant's wife wanted me to put it in a pasteboard box, but I stubbornly insisted on having the jar, why, I do not know, but I suppose it was because my father's word was gospel to me, and he had said that the best place to keep my specimens was the cellar window, and I must have thought the jar the nearest equivalent to the cellar. The Half-luna did not mind in the least, but went on lazily opening and closing its wings, yet making no attempt to fly. If I had known what it was, or anything of its condition, I would have understood that it had emerged from the cocoon that morning, and never had flown, but was establishing circulation preparatory to taking wing. Being only a small, very ignorant girl, the greatest thing I knew for sure was what I loved.

Tying my sunbonnet over the top of the jar, I stationed myself on the horse block at the front gate. Every passing team was hailed with lifted hand, just as I had seen my father do, and in as perfect an imitation of his voice as a scared little girl making her first venture alone in the big world could muster, I asked, "Which way, Friend?"

For several long, hot hours people went to every point of the compass, but at last a bony young farmer, with a fat wife, and a fatter baby, in a big wagon, were going to my city, and they said I might ride. With quaking heart I handed up my jar, and climbed in, covering all those ten miles in the June sunshine, on a board laid across the wagon bed, tightly clasping the two-gallon jar in my aching arms. The farmer's wife was quite concerned about me. She asked if I had butter, and I said, "Yes, the kind that flies."

I slipped the bonnet enough to let them peep. She did not seem to think much of it, but the farmer laughed until his tanned face was red as an Indian's. His wife insisted on me putting down the jar, and offered to set her foot on it so that it would not 'jounce' much, but I did not propose to risk it 'jouncing' at all, and clung to it persistently. Then she offered to tie her apron over the top of the jar if I would put my bonnet on my head, but I was afraid to attempt the exchange for fear my butterfly would try to escape, and I might crush it, a thing I almost never had allowed to happen.

The farmer's wife stuck her elbow into his ribs, and said, "How's that for the queerest specimen ye ever see?" The farmer answered, "I never saw nothin' like it before." Then she said, ''Aw pshaw! I didn't mean in the jar!" Then they both laughed. I thought they were amused at me, but I had no intention of risking an injury to my Half-luna, for there had been one black day on which I had such a terrible experience that it entailed a lifetime of caution.

Where Philip Found a Girl of the Limberlost

I had captured what I afterward learned was an Asterias, that seemed slightly different from any previous specimen, and a yellow swallow-tail, my first Papillo Turnus. The yellow one was the largest, most beautiful butterfly I ever had seen. I was carrying them, one between each thumb and forefinger, and running with all possible speed to reach the screen before my touch could soil the down on their exquisite wings. I stumbled, and fell, so suddenly, there was no time to release them. The black one sailed away with a ragged wing, and the yellow was crushed into a shapeless mass in my hand. I was accustomed to falling off fences, from trees, and into the creek, and because my mother was an invalid I had learned to doctor my own bruises and uncomplainingly go my way. My reputation was that of a very brave little girl; but when I opened my hand and saw that broken butterfly, and my down-painted fingers, I was never more afraid in my life. I screamed aloud in panic, and ran for my mother with all my might. Heartbroken, I could not control my voice to explain as I threw myself on her couch, and before I knew what they were doing, I was surrounded by sisters and the cook with hot water, bandages and camphor.

My mother clasped me in her arms, and rocked me on her breast. "There, there, my poor child," she said, "I know it hurts dreadfully!" And to the cook she commanded, "Pour on camphor quickly! She is half killed, or she never would come to me like this." I found my voice. "Camphor won't do any good," I wailed. "It was the most beautiful butterfly, and I've broken it all to pieces. It must have taken God hours studying how to make it different from all the others, and I know He never will forgive me!' I began sobbing worse than ever. The cook on her knees before me sat on her heels suddenly. "Great Heavens! She's screechin' about breakin' a butterfly, and not her poor fut, at all!" Then I looked down and discovered that I had stubbed my toe in falling, and had left a bloody trail behind me. "Of course I am!" I sobbed indignantly. "Couldn't I wash off a little blood in the creek, and tie up my toe with a dock leaf and some grass? I've killed the most beautiful butterfly, and I know I won't be forgiven!"

Cecropia Life History Begins with the Eggs

I opened my tightly clenched hand and showed it to prove my words. The sight was so terrible to me that I jerked my foot from the cook, and thrust my hand into the water, screaming, "Wash it! Wash it! Wash the velvet from my hand! Oh! make it white again!" Before the cook bathed and bandaged my foot, she washed and dried my hand; and my mother whispered, "God knows you never meant to do it, and He is sorry as mother is." So my mother and the cook comforted me. The remainder scattered suddenly. It was years before I knew why, and I was a Shakespearean student before I caught the point to their frequently calling me "Little Lady Macbeth!" After such an experience, it was not probable that I would risk crushing a butterfly to tie a bonnet on my head. It probably would be down my back half the time anyway. It usually was.

As we neared the city I heard the farmer's wife tell him that he must take me to my home. He said he would not do any such a thing, but she said he must. She explained that she knew me, and it would not be decent to put me down where they were going, and leave me to walk home and carry that heavy jar. So the farmer took me to our gate. I thanked him as politely as I knew how, and kissed his wife and the fat baby in payment for their kindness, for I was very grateful. I was so tired I scarcely could set down the jar and straighten my cramped arms when I had the opportunity.

I had expected my family to be delighted over my treasure, but they exhibited an astonishing indifference, and were far more concerned over the state of my blistered face. I would not hear of putting my Half-luna on the basement screen as they suggested, but enthroned it in state on the best lace curtains at a parlour window, covered the sill with leaves and flowers, and went to bed happy. The following morning my sisters said a curtain was ruined, and when they removed it to attempt restoration, the general consensus of opinion seemed to be that something was a nuisance, I could not tell whether it was I, or the Half-luna. On coming to the parlour a little later, ladened with leaves and flowers, my treasure was gone. The cook was sure it had flown from the door over someone's head, and she said very tersely that it was a burning shame, and if such carelessness as that ever occurred again she would quit her job. Such is the confidence of a child that I accepted my loss as an inevitable accident, and tried to be brave to comfort her, although my heart was almost broken. Of course they freed my moth. They never would have dared but that the little mother's couch stood all day empty now, and her chair unused beside it. My disappointment was so deep and far-reaching it made me ill then they scolded me, and said I had half killed myself carrying that heavy jar in the hot sunshine, although the pain from which I suffered was neither in my arms nor sunburned face.

Cecropia Caterpillar Ready to Spin

So I lost my first Cecropia, and from that day until a woman grown and much of this material secured, in all my field work among the birds, flowers, and animals, I never had seen another. They had taunted me in museums, and been my envy in private collections, but find one, I could not. When in my field work among the birds, so many moths of other families almost had thrust themselves upon me that I began a collection of reproductions of them, I found little difficulty in securing almost anything else. I could picture Sphinx Moths in any position I chose, and Lunas seemed eager to pose for me. A friend carried to me a beautiful tan-coloured Polyphemus with transparent moons like isinglass set in its wings of softest velvet down, and as for butterflies, it was not necessary to go afield for them; they came to me. I could pick a Papilio Ajax, that some of my friends were years in securing, from the pinks in my garden. A pair of Antiopas spent a night, and waited to be pictured in the morning, among the leaves of my passion vine. Painted Beauties swayed along my flowered walks, and in September a Viceroy reigned in state on every chrysanthemum, and a Monarch was enthroned on every sunbeam. No luck was too good for me, no butterfly or moth too rare, except forever and always the coveted Cecropia, and by this time I had learned to my disgust that it was one of the commonest of all.

Then one summer, late in June, a small boy, having an earnest, eager little face, came to me tugging a large box. He said he had something for me. He said "they called it a butterfly, but he was sure it never was." He was eminently correct. He had a splendid big Cecropia. I was delighted. Of course to have found one myself would have filled my cup to overflowing, but to secure a perfect, living specimen was good enough. For the first time my childish loss seemed in a measure compensated. Then, I only could study a moth to my satisfaction and set it free; now, I could make reproductions so perfect that every antler of its antennae could be counted with the naked eye, and copy its colours accurately, before giving back its liberty.

I asked him whether he wanted money or a picture of it, and as I expected, he said "money," so he was paid. An hour later he came back and said he wanted the picture. On being questioned as to his change of heart, he said "mamma told him to say he wanted the picture, and she would give him the money." My sympathy was with her. I wanted the studies I intended to make of that Cecropia myself, and I wanted them very badly.

I opened the box to examine the moth, and found it so numb with the cold over night, and so worn and helpless, that it could not cling to a leaf or twig. I tried repeatedly, and fearing that it had been subjected to rough treatment, and soon would be lifeless, for these moths live only a short time, I hastily set up a camera focusing on a branch. Then I tried posing my specimen. Until the third time it fell, but the fourth it clung, and crept down a twig, settling at last in a position that far surpassed any posing that I could do. I was very pleased, and yet it made a complication. It had gone so far that it might be off the plate and from focus. It seemed so stupid and helpless that I decided to risk a peep at the glass, and hastily removing the plate and changing the shutter, a slight but most essential alteration was made, everything replaced, and the bulb caught up. There was only a breath of sound as I turned, and then I stood horrified, for my Cecropia was sailing over a large elm tree in a corner of the orchard, and for a block my gaze followed it skyward, flying like a bird before it vanished in the distance, so quickly had it recovered in fresh air and sunshine.

Wallace Hardison's Interwoven Twin Cocoons. Left, Male; Right, Female

I have undertaken to describe some very difficult things, but I would not attempt to portray my feelings, and three days later there was no change. It was in the height of my season of field work, and I had several extremely interesting series of bird studies on hand, and many miscellaneous subjects. In those days some pictures were secured that I then thought, and yet feel, will live, but nothing mattered to me. There was a standing joke among my friends that I never would be satisfied with my field work until I had made a study of a "Ha-ha bird," but I doubt if even that specimen would have lifted the gloom of those days. Everything was a drag, and frequently I would think over it all in detail, and roundly bless myself for taking a prize so rare, to me at least, into the open.

The third day stands lurid in my memory. It was the hottest, most difficult day of all my years of experience afield. The temperature ranged from 104 to 108 in the village, and in quarries open to the east, flat fields, and steaming swamps it certainly could have been no cooler. With set cameras I was working for a shot at a hawk that was feeding on all the young birds and rabbits in the vicinity of its nest. I also wanted a number of studies to fill a commission that was pressing me. Subjects for several pictures had been found, and exposures made on them when the weather was so hot that the rubber slide of a plate holder would curl like a horseshoe if not laid on a case, and held flat by a camera while I worked. Perspiration dried, and the landscape took on a sombre black velvet hue, with a liberal sprinkling of gold stars. I sank into a stupor going home, and an old farmer aroused me, and disentangled my horse from a thicket of wild briers into which it had strayed. He said most emphatically that if I did not know enough to remain indoors [in] weather like that, my friends should appoint me a "guardeen."

I reached the village more worn in body and spirit than I ever had been. I felt that I could not endure another degree of heat on the back of my head, and I was much discouraged concerning my work. Why not drop it all, and go where there were cool forests and breezes sighing? Perhaps my studies were not half so good as I thought! Perhaps people would not care for them! For that matter, perhaps the editors and publishers never would give the public an opportunity to see my work at all!

I dragged a heavy load up the steps and swung it to the veranda, and there stood almost paralysed. On the top step, where I could not reach the Cabin door without seeing it, newly emerged, and slowly exercising a pair of big wings, with every gaudy marking fresh with new life, was the finest Cecropia I ever had seen anywhere. Recovering myself with a start, I had it under my net that had waited twenty years to cover it! Inside the door I dropped the net, and the moth crept on my fingers. What luck! What extra golden luck! I almost felt that God had been sorry for me, and sent it there to encourage me to keep on picturing the beauties and wonders of His creations for people who could not go afield to see for themselves, and to teach those who could to protect helpless, harmless things for their use and beauty.

Male Out; Head of Female Showing at Half-Past Eleven, May Fourteenth

I walked down the hall, and vaguely scanned the solid rows of books and specimens lining the library walls. I scarcely realized the thought that was in my mind, but what I was looking for was not there. The diningroom then, with panelled walls and curtains of tapestry? It was not there! Straight to the white and gold music room I went. Then a realizing sense came to me. It was Brussels lace for which I was searching! On the most delicate, snowiest place possible, on the finest curtain there, I placed my Cecropia, and then stepped back and gazed at it with a sort of "Touch it over my dead body" sentiment in my heart. An effort was required to arouse myself, to realize that I was not dreaming. To search the fields and woods for twenty years, and then find the specimen I had sought awaiting me at my own door! Well might it have been a dream, but that the Cecropia, clinging to the meshes of the lace, slowly opening and closing its wings to strengthen them for flight, could be nothing but a delightful reality.

A few days later, in the valley of the Wood Robin, while searching for its nest I found a large cocoon. It was above my head, but afterward I secured it by means of a ladder, and carried it home. Shortly there emerged a yet larger Cecropia, and luck seemed with me. I could find them everywhere through June, the time of their emergence, later their eggs, and the tiny caterpillars that hatched from them. During the summer I found these caterpillars, in different stages of growth, until fall, when after their last moult and casting of skin, they reached the final period of feeding; some were over four inches in length, a beautiful shade of greenish blue, with red and yellow warty projections -- tubercles, according to scientific works.

It is easy to find the cocoons these caterpillars spin, because they are the largest woven by any moth, and placed in such a variety of accessible spots. They can be found in orchards, high on branches, and on water sprouts at the base of trees. Frequently they are spun on swamp willows, box-elder, maple, or wild cherry. Mr. Black once found for me the largest cocoon I ever have seen; a pale tan colour with silvery lights, woven against the inside of a hollow log. Perhaps the most beautiful of all, a dull red, was found under the flooring of an old bridge crossing a stream in the heart of the swamp, by a girl not unknown to fiction, who brought it to me. In a deserted orchard close [to] the Wabash, Raymond once found a pair of empty cocoons at the foot of a big apple tree, fastened to the same twigs, and within two inches of each other.

But the most wonderful thing of all occurred when Wallace Hardison, a faithful friend to my work, sawed a board from the roof of his chicken house and carried to me twin Cecropia cocoons, spun so closely together they were touching, and slightly interwoven. By the closest examination I could discover slight difference between them. The one on the right was a trifle fuller in the body, wider at the top, a shade lighter in colour, and the inner case seemed heavier.

All winter those cocoons occupied the place of state in my collection. Every few days I tried them to see if they gave the solid thump indicating healthy pupae, and listened to learn if they were moving. By May they were under constant surveillance. On the fourteenth I was called from home a few hours to attend the funeral of a friend. I think nothing short of a funeral would have taken me, for the moth from a single cocoon had emerged on the eleventh. I hurried home near noon, only to find that I was late, for one was out, and the top of the other cocoon heaving with the movements of the second.

The moth that had escaped was a male. It clung to the side of the board, wings limp, its abdomen damp. The opening from which it came was so covered with terra cotta coloured down that I thought at first it must have disfigured itself; but full development proved it could spare that much and yet appear all right.

In the fall I had driven a nail through one corner of the board, and tacked it against the south side of the Cabin, where I made reproductions of the cocoons. The nail had been left, and now it suggested the same place. A light stroke on the head of the nail, covered with cloth to prevent jarring, fastened the board on a log. Never in all my life did I hurry as on that day, and I called my entire family into service. The Deacon stood at one elbow, Molly-Cotton at the other, and the gardener in the rear. There was not a second to be lost, and no time for an unnecessary movement; for in the heat and bright sunshine those moths would emerge and develop with amazing rapidity.

Molly-Cotton held an umbrella over them to prevent this as much as possible; the Deacon handed plate holders, and Brenner ran errands. Working as fast as I could make my fingers fly in setting up the camera, and getting a focus, the second moth's head was out, its front feet struggling to pull up the body; and its antennae beginning to lift, when I was ready for the first snap at half-past eleven.

Male Climbs a Few Steps; Female Half Out

By the time I inserted the slide, turned the plate holder and removed another slide, the first moth to appear had climbed up the board a few steps, and the second was halfway out. Its antennae were nearly horizontal now, and from its position I decided that the wings as they lay in the pupa case were folded neither to the back nor to the front, but pressed against the body in a lengthwise crumpled mass, the heavy front rib, or costa, on top.

Again I changed plates with all speed. By the time I was ready for the third snap the male had reached the top of the board, its wings opened for the first time, and began a queer trembling motion. The second one had emerged and was running into the first, so I held my finger in the line of its advance, and when it climbed on I lowered it to the edge to the board beside the cocoons. It immediately clung to the wood. The big pursy abdomen and smaller antennae, that now turned forward in position, proved this a female. The exposure was made not ten seconds after she cleared the case, and with her back to the lens, so the position and condition of the wings and antennae on emergence can be seen clearly.

Quickly as possible I changed the plates again; the time that elapsed could not have been over half a minute. The male was trying to creep up the wall, and the increase in the length and expansion of the female's wings could be seen. The colours on both were exquisite, but they grew a trifle less brilliant as the moths became dry.

Again I turned to the business of plate changing. The heat was intense, and perspiration was streaming from my face. I called to Molly-Cotton to shield the moths while I made the change. "Drat the moths!" cried the Deacon. "Shade your mother!" Being an obedient girl, she shifted the umbrella, and by the time I was ready for business, the male was on the logs and travelling up the side of the Cabin. The female was climbing toward the logs also, so that a side view showed her wings already beginning to lift above her back.

I had only five snapshot plates in my holders, so I was compelled to stop. It was as well, for surely the record was complete, and I was almost prostrate with excitement and heat. Several days later I opened each of the cocoons and made interior studies. The one on the right was split down the left side and turned back to show the bed of spun silk of exquisite colour that covers the inner case. Some say this silk has no commercial value, as it is cut in lengths reaching from the top around the inner case and back to the top again; others think it can be used. The one on the left was opened down the front of the outer case, the silk parted and the heavy inner case cut from top to bottom to show the smooth interior wall, the thin pupa case burst by the exit of the moth, and the cast caterpillar skin crowded at the bottom.

Male Reverses Wings; Female Clears Opening

The pair mated that same night, and the female began laying eggs by noon the following day. She dotted them in lines over the inside of her box, and on leaves placed in it, and at times piled them in a heap instead of placing them as do these moths in freedom. Having taken a picture of a full-grown caterpillar of this moth brought to me by Mr. Andrew Idlewine, I now had a complete Cecropia history; eggs, fullgrown caterpillars, twin cocoons, and the story of the emergence of the moths that wintered in them. I do not suppose Mr. Hardison thought he was doing anything unusual when he brought me those cocoons, yet by bringing them, he made it possible for me to secure this series of twin Cecropia moths, male and female, a thing never before recorded by lepidopterist or photographer so far as I can learn.

The Cecropia is a moth whose acquaintance nature-loving city people can cultivate. In December of 1906, on a tree, maple I think, near No. 2230 North Delaware Street, Indianapolis, I found four cocoons of this moth, and on the next tree, save one, another. Then I began watching, and in the coming days I counted them by the hundred through the city. Several bushels of these cocoons could have been clipped in Indianapolis alone, and there is no reason why any other city that has maple, elm, catalpa, and other shade trees would not have as many, so that anyone who would like can find them easily.

Cecropia cocoons bewilder a beginner by their difference in shape. You cannot determine the sex of the moth by the size of the cocoon. In the case of the twins, the cocoon of the female was the larger, but I have known male and female alike to emerge from large or small. You are fairly sure of selecting a pair if you depend upon weight. The females are heavier than the males, because they emerge with quantities of eggs ready to deposit as soon as they have mated. If anyone wants to winter a pair of moths, they are reasonably sure of doing so by selecting the heaviest and lightest cocoons they can find.

In the selection of cocoons, hold them to the ear, and with a quick motion reverse them end for end. If there is a dull, solid thump, the moth is alive, and will emerge all right. If this thump is lacking, and there is a rattle like a small seed shaking in a dry pod, it means that the caterpillar has gone into the cocoon with one of the tiny parasites that infest these worms, clinging to it, and the pupa has been eaten by the parasite.

In fall and late summer are the best times to find cocoons, as birds tear open many of them in winter; and when weatherbeaten they fade, and do not show the exquisite shadings of silk of those newly spun. When fresh, the colours range from almost white through lightest tans and browns to a genuine red, and there is a silvery effect that is lovely on some of the large, baggy ones, hidden under bridges. Out of doors the moths emerge in middle May or June, but they are earlier in the heat of a house. They are the largest of any species, and exquisitely coloured, the shades being strongest on the upper side of the wings. They differ greatly in size, most males having an average wing sweep of five inches, and a female that emerged in my conservatory from a cocoon that I wintered with particular care had a spread of seven inches, the widest of which I have heard; six and three quarters is a large female. The moth, on appearing, seems all head and abdomen, the wings hanging limp and wet from the shoulders. It at once creeps around until a place where it can hang with the wings down is found, and soon there begins a sort of pumping motion of the body. I imagine this is to start circulation, to exercise parts, and force blood into the wings. They begin to expand, to dry, to take on colour with amazing rapidity, and as soon as they are full size and crisp, the moth commences raising and lowering them slowly, as in flight. If a male, he emerges near ten in the forenoon, and flies at dusk in search of a mate.

Male Searching for Shade; Female's Wings Begin to Lift

As the females are very heavy with eggs, they usually remain where they are. After mating they begin almost at once to deposit their eggs, and do not take flight until they have finished. The eggs are round, having a flat top that becomes slightly depressed as they dry. They are of pearl colour, with a touch of brown, changing to greyish as the tiny caterpillars develop. Their outline can be traced through the shell on which they make their first meal when they emerge. Female Cecropias average about three hundred and fifty eggs each, that they sometimes place singly, and again string in rows, or in captivity pile in heaps. In freedom they deposit the eggs mostly on leaves, sometimes the under, sometimes the upper sides or dot them on bark, boards or walls. The percentage of loss of eggs and the young is large, for they are nowhere numerous enough to become a pest, as they certainly would if three hundred caterpillars survived to each female moth. The young feed on apple, willow, maple, box-elder, or wild cherry leaves; and grow through a series of feeding periods and moults, during which they rest for a few days, cast the skin and intestinal lining and then feed for another period.

After the females have finished depositing their eggs, they cling to branches, vines or walls a few days, fly aimlessly at night and then pass out without ever having taken food.

I have painted this moth from a newly emerged female, when all colouring was much stronger than after a few days of life. I have been careful to place the most minute line and trace the finest colour shading from lavender and rose madder at the apex of the wing, to terra cotta, black and white at the base. How perfectly the engravers can reproduce all these complicated markings remains to be seen.

Male Begins Wing Exercise; Female Raises Wings

Cecropia has several "Cousins," Promethea, Angulifera, Gloveri, and Cynthia, that vary slightly in marking and more in colour. All are smaller than Cecropia. The male of Promethea is the darkest moth of the Limberlost. The male of Angulifera is a brownish grey, the female reddish, with warm tan colours on her wing borders. She is very beautiful. The markings on the wings of both are not half-moon shaped, as Cecropia and Gloveri, but are oblong, and largest at the point next the apex of the wing.

Gloveri could not be told from Cecropian half-tone reproduction by any save a scientist, so similar are the markings, but in colour they are vastly different, and more beautiful. The only living Gloveri I ever secured was almost done with life, and she was so badly battered I could not think of making a picture of her. The wings are a lovely red wine colour, with warm tan borders, and the crescents are white, with a line of tan and then of black. The abdomen is white striped with wine and black.

Cynthia has pale olive green shadings on both male and female. These are imported moths brought here about 1861 in the hope that they would prove valuable in silk culture. They occur mostly where the ailanthus grows.

My heart goes out to Cecropia because it is such a noble, birdlike, big fellow, and since it has decided to be rare with me no longer, all that is necessary is to pick it up, either in caterpillar, cocoon, or moth, at any season of the year, in almost any location. The Cecropia moth resembles the robin among birds; not alone because he is grey with red markings, but also he haunts the same localities. The robin is the bird of the eaves, the back door, the yard and orchard. Cecropia is the moth. My doorstep is not the only one they grace; my friends have found them in like places. Cecropia cocoons are attached to fences, chicken-coops, barns, houses, and all through the orchards of old country places, so that their emergence at bloom time adds to May and June one more beauty, and frequently I speak of them as the Robin Moth.

Cocoon on Right Opened to Show Outer Case and Silk Bedding. On Left to Show Inner Case, Cast Pupa and Caterpillar Skin

In connexion with Cecropia there came to me the most delightful experience of my life. One perfect night during the middle of May, all the world white with tree bloom, touched to radiance with brilliant moonlight, intoxicating with countless blending perfumes, I placed a female Cecropia on the screen of my sleeping-room door and retired. The lot on which the Cabin stands is sloping, so that, although the front foundations are low, my door is at least five feet above the ground, and opens on a circular porch, from which steps lead down between two apple trees, at that time sheeted in bloom. Past midnight I was awakened by soft touches on the screen, faint pullings at the wire. I went to the door and found the porch, orchard, and night-sky alive with Cecropias holding high carnival. I had not supposed there were so many in all this world. From every direction they came floating like birds down the moonbeams. I carefully removed the female from the door to a window close beside, and stepped on the porch. No doubt I was permeated with the odour of the moth. As I advanced to the top step, that lay even with the middle branches of the apple trees, the exquisite big creatures came swarming around me. I could feel them on my hair, my shoulders, and see them settling on my gown and outstretched hands. Far as I could penetrate the night-sky more were coming. They settled on the bloom-laden branches, on the porch pillars, on me indiscriminately. I stepped inside the door with one on each hand and five clinging to my gown. This experience, I am sure, suggested Mrs. Comstock's moth hunting in the Limberlost. Then I went back to the veranda and revelled with the moths until dawn drove them to shelter. One magnificent specimen, birdlike above all the others, I followed across the orchard and yard to a grape arbour, where I picked him from the under side of a leaf after he had settled for the coming day. Repeatedly I counted close to a hundred, and then they would so confuse me by flight I could not be sure I was not numbering the same one twice. With eight males, some of them fine large moths, one superb, from which to choose, my female mated with an insistent, frowsy little scrub lacking two feet and having torn and ragged wings. I needed no surer proof that she had very dim vision.

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Moths of the Carnival


Several years ago, Mr. A. Eisen, a German, of Coldwater, Michigan, who devotes his leisure to collecting moths, gave me as pinned specimens a pair of Eacles Imperialis, and their full life history. Any intimate friend of mine can testify that yellow is my favourite colour, with shades of lavender running into purple, second choice. When I found a yellow moth, liberally decorated with lavender, the combination was irresistible. Mr. Eisen said the mounted specimens were faded; but the living moths were beautiful beyond description. Naturally I coveted life.

Facing the Audience

I was very particular to secure the history of the caterpillars and their favourite foods. I learned from Mr. Eisen that they were all of the same shape and habit, but some of them might be green, with cream-coloured heads and feet, and black face lines, the body covered sparsely with long hairs; or they might be brown, with markings of darker brown and black with white hairs; but they would be at least three inches long when full grown, and would have a queer habit of rearing and drawing leaves to their mouths when feeding. I was told I would find them in August, on leaves of spruce, pine, cherry, birch, alder, sycamore, elm, or maple; that they pupated in the ground; and the moths were common, especially around lights in city parks, and at street crossings.

Armed with this information, and spurred by my love of yellow, hours were spent when my cameras were focused on a bird nest, and I was waiting for my subjects to assume some desirable attitude, in searching for the moths in June, the caterpillars in August and early September, and when lifting wild roots for pupae in the fall. Afield, when the light grew too dim for bird work, I hunted moths and secured them in larger numbers than I could use, and of many differing families, but never a yellow one.

Coming from a drive one rare June evening, I found Mr. William Pettis, a shooter of oil wells, whom I frequently met while at my work, sitting on the veranda in an animated business discussion with the Deacon.

"I brought you a pair of big moths that I found this morning on some bushes beside the road," said Mr. Pettis. "I went to give Mr. Porter a peep to see if he thought you'd want them, and they both got away. He was quicker than I, and caught the larger one, but mine sailed over the top of that tree." He indicated an elm not far away.

"Did you know them?" I asked the Deacon.

"No," he answered. "You have none of the kind. They are big as birds and a beautiful yellow."

"Yellow!" No doubt I was unduly emphatic. ''Yellow! Didn't you know better than to open a box with moths in it outdoors at night?"

"It was my fault," interposed Mr. Pettis. "He told me not to open the box, but I had shown them a dozen times to-day and they never moved. I didn't think about night being their time to fly. I am very sorry."

So was I. Sorry enough to have cried, but I tried my best to conceal it. Anyway, it might be Io, and I had that. On going inside to examine the moth, I found a large female Eacles Imperialis, with not a scale of down misplaced. Even by gas light I could see that the yellow of the living moth was a warm canary colour, and the lavender of the mounted specimen closer heliotrope on the living, for there were pinkish tints that had faded from the pinned moth.

She was heavy with eggs, and made no attempt to fly, so I closed the box and left her until the lights were out, and then removed the lid. Every opening was tightly screened, and as she had mated, I did not think she would fly. I hoped in the freedom of the Cabin she would not break her wings, and ruin herself for a study.

There was much comfort in the thought that I could secure her likeness; her eggs would be fertile, and I could raise a brood the coming season, in which would be both male and female. When life was over I could add her to my specimen case, for these are of the moths that do not eat, and live only a few days after depositing their eggs. So I went out and explained to Mr. Pettis what efforts I had made to secure this yellow moth, comforted him for allowing the male to escape by telling him I could raise all I wanted from the eggs of the female, showed him my entire collection, and sent him from the Cabin such a friend to my work, that it was he who brought me an oil-coated lark a few days later. Throughout the summer in his drives across country he kept my work in mind, and frequently brought me another moth, a bird in distress from oil, or something I could use or save suffering. Now he is one of the men on whom I depend to watch for me, and bring anything there is even a hope I can use, or guide me to the haunts of birds he sees while about his business.

On rising early the next morning, I found my moth had deposited some eggs on the dining-room floor, before the conservatory doors, more on the heavy tapestry that covered them, and she was clinging to a velvet curtain at a library window, liberally dotting it with eggs, almost as yellow as her body. I turned a tumbler over those on the floor, pinned folds in the curtains, and as soon as the light was good, set up a camera and focused on a suitable location.

She climbed on my finger when it was held before her, and was carried, with no effort to fly, to the place I had selected, though Molly-Cotton walked close with a spread net, ready for the slightest impulse toward movement. But female moths seldom fly until they have finished egg depositing, and this one was transferred with no trouble to the spot on which I had focused. On the back wall of the Cabin, among some wild roses, she was placed on a log, and immediately raised her wings, and started for the shade of the vines. The picture made of her as she walked is beautiful. After I had secured several studies she was returned to the library curtain, where she resumed egg placing. These were not counted, but there, were at least three hundred at a rough guess.

I had thought her lovely in gas light, but day brought forth marvels and wonders. When a child, I used to gather cowslips in a bed of lush swale, beside a little creek at the foot of a big hill on our farm. At the summit was an old orchard, and in a brush-heap a brown thrush nested. From a red winter pearmain the singer poured out his own heart in song, and then reproduced the love ecstasy of every other bird of the orchard. That moth's wings were so exactly the warm though delicate yellow of the flowers I loved, that as I looked at it I could feel my bare feet sinking in the damp ooze, smell the fragrance of the buttercups, and hear again the ripple of the water and the mating exultation of the brown thrush.

In the name -- Eacles Imperialis -- there is no meaning or appropriateness to "Eacles"; "Imperialis" -- of course, translates imperial -- which seems most fitting, for the moth is close [to] the size of Cecropia, and of truly royal beauty. We called it the Yellow Emperor. Her Imperial Golden Majesty had a wing sweep of six and a quarter inches. From the shoulders spreading in an irregular patch over front and back wings, most on the front, were markings of heliotrope, quite dark in colour: Near the costa of the front wings were two almost circular dots of slightly paler heliotrope, the one nearest the edge about half the size of the other. On the back wings, halfway from each edge, and half an inch from the marking at the base, was one round spot of the same colour. Beginning at the apex of the front pair, and running to half an inch from the lower edge, was a band of escalloped heliotrope. On the back pair this band began half an inch from the edge and ran straight across, so that at the outer curve of the wing it was an inch higher. The front wing surface and the space above this marking on the back were liberally sprinkled with little oblong touches of heliotrope; but from the curved line to the bases of the back pair, the colouring was pure canary yellow.

The top of the head was covered with long, silken hairs of heliotrope, then a band of yellow; the upper abdomen was strongly shaded with heliotrope almost to the extreme tip. The lower sides of the wings were yellow at the base, the spots showing through, but not the bands, and only the faintest touches of the mottling. The thorax and abdomen were yellow, and the legs heliotrope. The antennae were heliotrope, fine, threadlike, and closely pressed to the head. The eyes were smaller than those of Cecropia, and very close together.

Compared with Cecropia these moths were very easy to paint. Their markings were elaborate, but they could be followed accurately, and the ground work of colour was warm cowslip yellow. The only difficulty was to make the almost threadlike antennae show, and to blend the faint touches of heliotrope on the upper wings with the yellow.

The eggs on the floor and curtains were guarded with care. They were dotted around promiscuously, and at first were clear and of amber colour, but as the little caterpillars grew in them, they showed a red line three fourths of the way around the rim, and became slightly depressed in the middle. The young emerged in thirteen days. They were nearly half an inch long, and were yellow with black lines. They began the task of eating until they reached the pupa state, by turning on their shells and devouring all of them to the glue by which they were fastened.

They were given their choice of oak, alder, sumac, elm, cherry, and hickory. The majority of them seemed to prefer the hickory. They moulted on the fifth day for the first time, and changed to a brown colour. Every five or six days they repeated the process, growing larger and of stronger colour with each moult, and developing a covering of long white hairs. Part of these moulted four times, others five.

At past six weeks of age they were exactly as Mr. Eisen had described them to me. Those I kept in confinement pupated on a bed of baked gravel, in a tin bucket. It is imperative to bake any earth or sand used for them to kill pests invisible to the eye, that might bore into the pupa cases and destroy the moths.

I watched the transformation with intense interest. After the caterpillars had finished eating they travelled in search of a place to burrow for a day or two. Then they gave up, and lay quietly on the sand. The colour darkened hourly, the feet and claspers seemed to draw inside, and one morning on going to look there were some greenish brown pupae. They shone as if freshly varnished, as indeed they were, for the substance provided to facilitate the emergence of the pupae from the caterpillar skins dries in a coating, that helps to harden the cases and protect them. These pupae had burst the skins at the thorax, and escaped by working the abdomen until they lay an inch or so from the skins.

What a "cast off garment" those skins were! Only the frailest outside covering, complete in all parts, and rapidly turning to a dirty brown. The pupae were laid away in a large box having a glass lid. It was filled with baked sand, covered with sphagnum moss, slightly dampened occasionally, and placed where it was cool, but never at actual freezing point. The following spring after the delight of seeing them emerge, they were released, for I secured a male to complete my collection a few days later, and only grew the caterpillars to prove it possible.

There was a carnival in the village, and, for three nights the streets were illuminated brightly from end to end, to the height of Ferris wheels and diving towers. The lights must have shone against the sky for miles around, for they drew from the Limberlost, from the Canoper, from Rainbow Bottom, and the Valley of the Wood Robin, their winged creatures of night.

I know Emperors appear in these places in my locality, for the caterpillars feed on leaves found there, and enter the ground to pupate; so of course the moth of June begins its life in the same location. Mr. Pettis found the mated pair he brought to me, on a bush at the edge of a swamp. They also emerge in cities under any tree on which their caterpillars feed. Once late in May, in the corner of a lichen-covered, old snake fence beside the Wabash on the Shimp farm, I made a series of studies of the home life of a pair of ground sparrows. They had chosen for a location a slight depression covered with a rank growth of meadow grass. Overhead wild plum and thorn in full bloom lay white-sheeted against the blue sky; red bud spread its purple haze, and at a curve, the breast of the river gleamed white as ever woman's; while underfoot the grass was obscured with masses of wild flowers.

An unusually fine cluster of white violets attracted me as I worked around the birds, so on packing at the close of the day I lifted the plant to carry home for my wild flower bed. Below a few inches of rotting leaves and black mould I found a lively pupa of the Yellow Emperor.

So these moths emerge and deposit their eggs in the swamps, forests, beside the river and wherever the trees on which they feed grow. When the serious business of life is over, attracted by strong lights, they go with other pleasure seeking company, and grace society by their royal presence.

I could have had half a dozen fine Imperialis moths during the three nights of the carnival, and fluttering above buildings many more could be seen that did not descend to our reach. Raymond had such a busy time capturing moths he missed most of the joys of the carnival, but I truly think he liked the chase better. One he brought me, a female, was so especially large that I took her to the Cabin to be measured, and found her to be six and three quarter inches, and of the lightest yellow of any specimen I have seen. Her wings were quite ragged. I imagined she had finished laying her eggs, and was nearing the end of life, hence she was not so brilliant as a newly emerged specimen. The moth proved this theory correct by soon going out naturally.

"On the Banks of the Wabash"

Choice could be made in all that plethora, and a male and female of most perfect colouring and markings were selected, for my studies of a pair. One male was mounted and a very large female on account of her size. That completed my Imperialis records from eggs to caterpillars, pupae and moths.

The necessity for a book on this subject, made simple to the understanding, and attractive to the eye of the masses, never was so deeply impressed upon me as in an experience with Imperialis. Molly-Cotton was attending a houseparty, and her host had chartered a pavilion at a city park for a summer night dance. At the close of one of the numbers, over the heads of the laughing crowd, there swept toward the light a large yellow moth.

With one dexterous sweep the host caught it, and while the dancers crowded around him with exclamations of wonder and delight, he presented it to Molly-Cotton and asked, "Do you know what it is?"

She laughingly answered, "Yes. But you don't!"

"Guilty!" he responded. "Name it."

For one fleeting instant Molly-Cotton measured the company. There was no one present who was not the graduate of a commissioned high school. There were girls who were students at The Castle, Smith, Vassar, and Bryn Mawr. The host was a Cornell junior, and there were men from Harvard and Yale.

"It is an Eacles Imperialis Io Polyphemus Cecropia Regalis," she said. Then in breathless suspense she waited.

"Shades of Homer!" cried the host. "Where did you learn it?"

"They are flying all through the Cabin at home," she replied. "There was a tumbler turned over their eggs on the dining-room floor, and you dared not sit on the right side of the library window seat because of them when I left."

''What do you want with their eggs?" asked a girl.

''Want to hatch their caterpillars, and raise them until they transform into these moths," answered poor Molly-Cotton, who had been taught to fear so few living things that at the age of four she had carried a garter snake into the house for a playmate.

"Caterpillars!" The chorus arose to a shriek. "Don't they sting you? Don't they bite you?"

"No, they don't!" replied Molly-Cotton. "They don't bite anything except leaves; they are fine big fellows; their colouring is exquisite; and they evolve these beautiful moths. I invite all of you to visit us, and see for yourselves how intensely interesting they are."

There was a murmur of polite thanks from the girls, but one man measured Molly-Cotton from the top curl of her head to the tip of her slippers, and answered, "I accept the invitation. When may I come?" He came, and left as great a moth enthusiast as any of us. This incident will be recognized as furnishing the basis on which to build the ballroom scene in ''A Girl of the Limberlost", in which Philip and Edith quarrel over the capture of a yellow Emperor.

But what of these students from the great representative colleges of the United States, to whom a jumbled string made from the names of half a dozen moths answered for one of the commonest of all?

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Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:54 pm


"As, poised on vibrant wings,
Where its sweet treasure swings
The honey-lover clings
To the red flowers."
-- Cooke.

The Lady Bird


In that same country garden where my first Cecropia was found, Deilephila Lineata was one of my earliest recollections. This moth flew among the flowers of especial sweetness all day long, just as did the hummingbirds; and I was taught that it was a bird also -- the Lady Bird. The little tan and grey thing hovering in air before the flowers was almost as large as the humming-birds, sipping honey as they did, swift in flight as they; and both my parents thought it a bird.

Lineata Moth

They did not know the hummingbirds were feasting on small insects attracted by the sweets, quite as often as on honey, for they never had examined closely. They had been taught, as I was, that this other constant visitor to the flowers was a bird. When a child, a hummingbird nested in a honeysuckle climbing over my mother's bedroom window. My father lifted me, with his handkerchief bound across my nose, on the supposition that the bird was so delicate it would desert its nest and eggs if they were breathed upon, to see the tiny cup of lichens, with a brown finish so fine it resembled the lining of a chestnut burr, and two tiny eggs. I well remember he told me that I now had seen the nest and eggs of the smallest feathered creature except the Lady Bird, and he never had found its cradle himself.

Every summer I discovered nests by the dozen, and for several years a systematic search was made for the home of a Lady Bird. One of the unfailing methods of finding locations was to climb a large Bartlett pear tree that stood beside the garden fence, and from an overhanging bough watch where birds flew with bugs and worms they collected. Lady Birds were spied upon, but when they left our garden they arose high in air, and went straight from sight toward every direction. So locating their nests as those of other birds were found, seemed impossible.

Then I tried going close [to] the sweetest flowers, those oftenest visited, the petunias, yellow day lilies, and trumpet creepers, and sitting so immovably I was not noticeable while I made a study of the Lady Birds. My first discovery was that they had no tail. One poised near enough to make sure of that, and I hurried to my father with the startling news. He said it was nothing remarkable; birds frequently lost their tails. He explained how a bird in close quarters has power to relax its muscles, and let its tail go in order to save its body, when under the paw of a cat, or caught in a trap.

That was satisfactory, but I thought it must have been a spry cat to get even a paw on the Lady Bird, for frequently humming-birds could be seen perching, but never one of these. I watched the tail question sharply, and soon learned the cats had been after every Lady Bird that visited our garden, or any of our neighbours, for not one of them had a tail. When this information was carried [to] my father, he became serious, but finally he said perhaps the tail was very short; those of humming-birds or wrens were, and apparently some water birds had no tail, or at least a very short one.

That seemed plausible, but still I watched this small and most interesting bird of all; this bird that no one ever had seen taking a bath, or perching, and whose nest never had been found by a person so familiar with all outdoors as my father. Then came a second discovery: it could curl its beak in a little coil when leaving a flower. A few days later I saw distinctly that it had four wings but I could discover no feet. I became a rank doubter, and when these convincing proofs were carried to my father, he also grew dubious.

"I always have thought and been taught that it was a bird," he said, "but you see so clearly and report so accurately, you almost convince me it is some large insect possibly of the moth family."

When I carried this opinion to my mother and told her, no doubt pompously, that "very possibly" I had discovered that the Lady Bird was not a bird at all, she hailed it as high treason, and said, "Of course it is a bird!" That forced me to action. The desperate course of capturing one was resolved upon. If only I could, surely its feet, legs, and wings would tell if it were a bird. By the hour I slipped among those bloom-bordered walks between the beds of flaming sweet-williams, buttercups, phlox, tiger and day lilies, Job's tears, hollyhocks, petunias, poppies, mignonette, and every dear old-fashioned flower that grows, and followed around the flower-edged beds of lettuce, radishes, and small vegetables, relentlessly trailing Lady Birds.

The Markings and Colors Are Works of Art

Pass after pass I made at them, but they always dived and escaped me. At last, when I almost had given up the chase, one went nearly from sight in a trumpet creeper. With a sweep the flower was closed behind it, and I ran into the house crying that at last I had caught a Lady Bird. Holding carefully, the trumpet was cut open with a pin, and although the moth must have been slightly pinched, and lacking in down when released, I clung to it until my mother and every doubting member of my family was convinced that this was no bird at all, for it lacked beak, tail, and feathers, while it had six legs and four wings. Father was delighted that I had learned something new, all by myself; but I really think it slightly provoked my mother when thereafter I always refused to call it a bird. This certainly was reprehensible. She should have known all the time that it was a moth.

The other day a club woman of Chicago who never in her life has considered money, who always has had unlimited opportunities for culture both in America and Europe, who speaks half a dozen languages, and has the care of but one child, came in her automobile to investigate the Limberlost. Almost her first demand was to see pictures. One bird study I handed her was of a brooding king rail, over a foot tall, with a three-foot wing sweep, and a long curved bill. She cried, "Oh! see the dear little hummingbird!"

If a woman of unlimited opportunity, in this day of the world, does not know a rail from a hummingbird, what could you expect of my little mother, who spoke only two languages, reared twelve lusty children, and never saw an ocean.

So by degrees the Lady Bird of the garden resolved itself into Deilephila Lineata. Deile -- evening; phila -- lover; lineata -- lined; the Lined Evening Lover. Why "evening" is difficult to understand, for all my life this moth occurs more frequently with me in the fore and early afternoon than in the evening. So I agree with those entomologists who call it the "whitelined morning-sphinx." It is lovely in modest garb, delicately lined, but exceedingly rich in colour. It has the long slender wings of the Sphingid moths, and in grace and tirelessness of flight resembles Celeus, the swallow of the moth family.

Its head is very small, and its thorax large. The eyes are big, and appear bigger because set in so tiny a head. Under its tongue, which is a full inch long, is a small white spot that divides, spreads across each eye, and runs over the back until even with the bases of the front wings. The top of the head and shoulders are olive brown, decorated with one long white line dividing it in the middle, and a shorter on each side. The abdomen is a pale brown, has a straight line running down the middle of the back, made up of small broken squares of very dark brown, touched with a tiny mark of white. Down each side of this small line extends a larger one, wider at the top and tapering, and this is composed of squares of blackish brown alternating with white, the brown being twice the size of the white. The sides of the abdomen are flushed with beautiful rosy pink, and beneath it is tan colour.

The wings are works of art. The front are a rich olive brown, marked the long way in the middle by a wide band of buff, shading to lighter buff at the base. They are edged from the costa to where they meet the back wings, with a line of almost equal width of darker buff, the lower edge touched with white. Beginning at the base, and running an equal distance apart from the costa to this line, are fine markings of white, even and clear as if laid on with a ruler.

The surprise comes in the back wings that show almost entirely when the moth is poised before a flower. These have a small triangle of the rich dark brown, and a band of the same at the lower edge, with a finish of olive, and a fine line of white as a marginal decoration. Crossing each back wing is a broad band of lovely pink of deeper shade than the colour on the sides. This pink, combined with the olive, dark browns, and white lining, makes the colour scheme of peculiar richness.

Its antennae are long, clubbed, and touched with white at the tips. The legs and body are tan colour. The undersides of the wings are the same as the upper, but the markings of brown and buffish pink show through in lighter colour, while the white lining resembles rows of tan ridges beneath. Its body is covered with silky hairs, longest on the shoulders, and at the base of the wings.

The eggs of the moth are laid on apple, plum, or woodbine leaves, or on grape, currant, gooseberry, chickweed or dock. During May and June around old log cabins in the country, with gardens that contain many of these vines and bushes, and orchards of bloom where the others can be found, the Lined Evening Lover deposits her eggs.

The caterpillars emerge in about six days. The tiny ovoid eggs are a greenish yellow. The youngsters are pale green, and have small horns. After a month spent in eating, and skin casting, the full-grown caterpillar is over two inches long, and as a rule a light green. There are on each segment black patches, that have a touch of orange, and on that a hint of yellow. The horn increases with the growth of the caterpillar, can be moved at will, and seems as if it were a vicious "stinger." But there is no sting, or any other method of self-defence, unless the habit of raising the head and throwing it from side to side could be so considered. With many people, this movement, combined with the sharp horn, is enough, but as is true of most caterpillars, they are perfectly harmless. Some moth historians record a mustard yellow caterpillar of this family, and I remember having seen some that answer the description; but all I ever have known to be Lineata were green.

A Favourite Haunt of the Lady Bird

The pupae are nearly two inches long and are tan coloured. They usually are found in the ground in freedom, or deep under old logs among a mass of leaves spun together. In captivity the caterpillars seem to thrive best on a diet of purslane, and they pupate perfectly on dry sand in boxes.

These moths have more complete internal development than those of night, for they feed and live throughout the summer. I photographed a free one feasting on the sweets of petunias in a flower bed at the Cabin, on the seventh of October. A few days before, Raymond had told me that he almost captured one at his home, and as we just had passed through a week of severe cold, there was a chance that he might have been mistaken, but the next day one came to a bed of nasturtiums beside which I was standing, and then darted across to the petunias.

I had photographed a Lineata several years before, as it hovered over a head of dock. It may have been a female searching for a place to deposit her eggs, or it may have fed on the pollen of the blooming dock weed. A second study had been made two years later when one clambered over some rose bushes, but these would not compare as pictures with a Lineata hovering over a flower, because all of the summer from early morning until late evening, that was their accustomed location, and they may have flown during the night. I have seen them in the moonlight of July and August at late hours.

The petunias in question grew beside a fence west of the Cabin. There was only a very short time during which the light would be strong, and rough boards for a background. This did not suit my ideas for a superlative lover of flowers. After due deliberation a petunia was lifted, and set in a pot. Then it was placed on a small sewing table, the camera set up and focused.

Before I had finished three little pale yellow moths were hovering over the blooms, and when next Lineata came to the flower bed, it also visited my improvised location. There was some wind, and the intruders were difficult to drive away. They seemed to give a "stuck in" appearance to the picture, although the Deacon stood close and declared they should be left, as they were the "finishing touch."

All the "finishing touch" I wanted for this chapter was a Lineata posed so that its markings showed, or hovering in an accustomed attitude over a favorite flower. Four plates were tried on it. One, on account of the wind, was an indistinct blur, another was better, but not what could be called a great success. For the last two of the four, the wind dropped away, and the moth poised, or it may have clung with its feet to the broad petals; anyway, it was artistically posed, and both moth and flowers were photographed in two different positions.

In painting the best of these studies I found small difficulty in copying the exact colours of the Lady Bird, but the white lines on her wings were a task. Try as I might I could not reproduce them to my satisfaction. When I felt I had done my best and called the Deacon to my easel to see the work he looked at my study critically and then said, "Those flowers are fine!"

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Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:56 pm


"At eve within yon studious nook,
I ope my brass-embossed book,
Portrayed with many a holy deed
Of martyrs, crowned with heavenly meed --
Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant, ere I sleep my measured hymn,
And, at the close the gleams behold,
Of parting wings, bedropt with gold."
-- Warton.

The Trailed Aristocrat


One morning there was a tap at my door, and when I opened it I found a tall, slender woman having big, soft brown eyes, and a winning smile. In one hand she held a shoe-box, having many rough perforations. I always have been glad that my eyes softened at the touch of pleading on her face, and a smile sprang in answer to hers before I saw what she carried. For confession must be made that a perforated box is a passport to my good graces any day.

Luna Moth

The most wonderful things come from those that are brought to my front door. Sometimes they contain a belated hummingbird, chilled with the first heavy frost of autumn, or a wounded weasel caught in a trap set for it near a chicken coop, or a family of baby birds whose parents some vandal has killed. Again they carry a sick or wounded bird that I am expected to doctor, and butterflies, moths, insects, and caterpillars of every description.

"I guess I won't stop," said the woman in answer to my invitation to enter the Cabin. "I found this creature on my front porch early this morning, and I sort of wanted to know what it was, for one thing, and I thought you might like to have it, for another."

''Then of course you will come in, and we will see what it is," I answered, leading the way into the library.

There I lifted the lid slightly to take a peep, and then with a cry of joy, opened it wide. That particular shoe-box had brought me an Actias Luna, newly emerged, and as yet unable to fly. I held down my finger, it climbed on, and was lifted to the light.

''Ain't it the prettiest thing?" asked the woman, with stars sparkling in her dark eyes. "Did you ever see whiter white?"

Together we studied that moth. Clinging to my finger, the living creature was of such delicate beauty as to impoverish my stock of adjectives at the beginning. Its big, pursy body was covered with long, furry scales of the purest white imaginable. The wings were of an exquisite light green colour; the front pair having a heavy costa of light purple that reached across the back of the head: the back pair ended in long artistic "trailers," faintly edged with light yellow. The front wing had an oval transparent mark close the costa, attached to it with a purple line, and the back had circles of the same. These decorations were bordered with lines of white, black, and red. At the bases of the wings were long, snowy silken hairs; the legs were purple, and the antennae resembled small, tan-coloured ferns. That is the best I can do at description. A living moth must be seen to form a realizing sense of its shape and delicacy of colour. Luna is our only large moth having trailers, and these are much longer in proportion to size and of more graceful curves than our trailed butterflies.

A Luna Courtship

The moth's wings were fully expanded, and it was beginning to exercise, so a camera was set up hastily, and several pictures of it secured. The woman helped me through the entire process, and in talking with her, I learned that she was Mrs. McCollum, from a village a mile and a half north of ours; that when she reached home she would have walked three miles to make the trip; and all her neighbours had advised her not to come, but she "had a feeling that she would like to."

''Are you sorry?" I asked.

''Am I sorry!" she cried. "Why I never had a better time in my life, and I can teach the children what you have told me. I'll bring you everything I can get my fingers on that you can use, and send for you when I find bird nests."

Mrs. McCollum has kept that promise faithfully. Again and again she trudged those three miles, bringing me small specimens of many species or to let me know that she had found a nest.

A big oak tree in Mrs. McCollum's yard explained the presence of a Luna there, as the caterpillars of this specie greatly prefer these leaves. Because the oak is of such slow growth it is seldom planted around residences for ornamental purposes; but is to be found most frequently in the forest. For this reason Luna as a rule is a moth of the deep wood, and so is seldom seen close [to] a residence, making people believe it quite rare. As a matter of fact, it is as numerous where the trees its caterpillars frequent are to be found, as any other moth in its natural location. Because it is of the forest, the brightest light there is to attract it is the glare of the moon as it is reflected on the face of a murky pool, or on the breast of the stream rippling its way through impassable thickets. There must be a self-satisfied smile on the face of the man in the moon, in whose honour these delicate creatures are named, when on fragile wing they hover above his mirrored reflection; for of all the beauties of a June night in the forest, these moths are most truly his.

Good Luna Hunting

In August of the same year, while driving on a corduroy road in Michigan, I espied a Luna moth on the trunk of a walnut tree close [to] the road. The cold damp location must account for this late emergence, for subsequent events proved that others of the family were as slow in appearing. A storm of protest arose, when I stopped the carriage and started to enter the swamp. The remaining occupants put in their time telling blood-curdling experiences with "massaugers," that infested those marshes, and while I bent grasses and cattails to make the best footing as I worked my way toward the moth, I could hear a mixed chorus "brought up thirteen in the dredge at the cement factory the other day," "killed nine in a hayfield below the cemetery," "saw a buster crossing the road before me, and my horse almost plunged into the swamp," "died of a bite from one that struck him while fixing a loose board in his front walk."

I am dreadfully afraid of snakes, and when it seemed I could not force myself to take another step, and I was clinging to a button bush while the water arose above my low shoes, the moth lowered its wings flat against the bark. From the size of the abdomen I could see that it was a female heavily weighted with eggs. Possibly she had mated the previous night, and if I could secure her, Luna life history would be mine.

So I set my teeth and advanced. My shoes were spoiled, and my skirts bedraggled, but I captured the moth and saw no indication of snakes. Soon after she was placed in a big pasteboard box and began dotting eggs in straight lines over the interior. They were white but changed colour as the caterpillars approached time to hatch. The little yellow-green creatures, nearly a quarter of an inch long, with a black line across the head, emerged in about sixteen days, and fed with most satisfaction on oak, but they would take hickory, walnut or willow leaves also. When the weather is cold the young develop slower, and I have had the egg period stretched to three weeks at times. Every few days the young caterpillars cast their skins and emerged in brighter colour and larger in size. It is usually supposed they mature in four moults, and many of them do, but some cast a fifth skin before transforming. When between seven and eight weeks of age, they were three inches long, and of strong blue-green colour. Most of them had tubercles of yellow, tipped with blue, and some had red.

They spun a leaf-cover cocoon, much the size and shape of that of Polyphemus, but whiter, very thin, with no inner case, and against some solid surface whenever possible. Fearing I might not handle them rightly, and lose some when ready to spin, I put half on our walnut tree so they could weave their cocoons according to characteristics.

They are fine, large, gaudy caterpillars. The handsomest one I ever saw I found among some gifts offered by Molly-Cotton for the celebration of my birthday. It had finished feeding, soon pupated in a sand pail and the following spring a big female emerged that attracted several males and they posed on a walnut trunk for beautiful studies.

Luna Caterpillar

Once under the oak trees of a summer resort, Miss Katherine Howell, of Philadelphia, intercepted a Luna caterpillar in the preliminary race before pupation and brought it to me. We offered young oak leaves, but they were refused, so it went before the camera. Behind the hotel I found an empty hominy can in which it soon began spinning, but it seemed to be difficult to fasten the threads to the tin, so a piece of board was cut and firmly wedged inside. The caterpillar clung to this and in the darkness of the can spun the largest and handsomest Luna winter quarters of all my experience. You will find the study at the close of this chapter. This cocoon differed in every particular from any I ever found that were spun under natural conditions. The outer wall was snow white, thicker than is the rule, and rough with a thousand upstanding filaments, as if it were frosted.

Luna hunters can secure material from which to learn this exquisite creature of night, by searching for the moths on the trunks of oak, walnut, hickory, birch or willow, during the month of June. The moths emerge on the ground, and climb these trees to unfold and harden their wings. The females usually remain where they are, and the males are attracted to them. If undisturbed they do not fly until after mating and egg depositing are accomplished. The males take wing as soon as dusk of the first night arrives, after their wings are matured. They usually find the females by ten o'clock or midnight, and remain with them until morning. I have found mated pairs as late as ten o'clock in the forenoon.

The moths do not eat, and after the affairs of life are accomplished, they remain in the densest shade they can find for a few days, and fly at night, ending their life period in from three days to a week. Few of these gaudily painted ones have the chance to die naturally, for both birds and squirrels prey upon them, tearing away the delicate wings, and feasting on the big pulpy bodies.

White eggs on the upper side of leaves of the trees mentioned are a sign of Luna caterpillars in deep woods, and full-grown larvae can be found on these trees in August. By breaking off a twig on which they are feeding, carrying them carefully, placing them in a box where they cannot be preyed upon by flies and parasites, and keeping a liberal supply of fresh damp leaves, they will finish the feeding days, and weave their cocoons.

Or the cocoons frequently can be found already spun among the leaves, by nutting parties later in the fall. There is small question if Luna pupae be alive, for on touching the cocoons they squirm and twist so vigorously that they can be heard plainly. There is so little difference in the size of male and female Lunas, that I am not sure of telling them apart in the cocoon, as I am certain I can Cecropia.

Cocoon gathering in the fall is one of the most delightful occupations imaginable. When flowers are gone, when birds have migrated, when brilliant foliage piles knee deep underfoot, during those last few days of summer, zest can be added to a ramble by a search for cocoons. Carrying them home with extreme care not to jar or dent them, they are placed in the conservatory among the flowers. They hang from cacti spines and over thorns on the big century plant and lemon tree. When sprinkling, the hose is turned on them, as they would take the rain outside. Usually they are placed in the coolest spots, where ventilation is good.

There is no harm whatever in taking them if the work is carefully and judiciously done. With you they are safe. Outside they have precarious chance for existence, for they are constantly sought by hungry squirrels and field mice, while the sharp eyes and sharper beaks of jays, and crows, are for ever searching for them. The only danger is in keeping them too warm, and so causing their emergence before they can be placed out safely at night, after you have made yourself acquainted with Luna history.

If they are kept cool enough that they do not emerge until May or June, then you have one of the most exquisite treats nature has in store for you, in watching the damp spot spread on the top of the cocoon where an acid is ejected that cuts and softens the tough fibre, and allows the moth to come pushing through in the full glory of its gorgeous birth. Nowhere in nature can you find such delicate and daintily shaded markings or colours so brilliant and fresh as on the wings of these creatures of night.

After you have learned the markings and colours, and secured pictures if you desire, and they begin to exhibit a restlessness, as soon as it is dusk, release them. They are as well prepared for all life has for them as if they had emerged in the woods. The chances are that they are surer of life at your hands than they would have been if left afield, provided you keep them cool enough that they do not emerge too soon.

If you want to photograph them, do it when the wings are fully developed, but before they have flown. They need not be handled; their wings are unbroken; their down covering in place to the last scale; their colours never so brilliant; their markings the plainest they ever will be; their big pursy bodies full of life; and they will climb with perfect confidence on any stick, twig, or limb held before them. Reproductions of them are even more beautiful than those of birds. By all means photograph them out of doors on a twig or leaf that their caterpillars will eat. Moths strengthen and dry very quickly outside in the warm crisp air of May or June, so it is necessary to have someone beside you with a spread net covering them, in case they want to fly before you are ready to make an exposure. In painting this moth the colours always should be copied from a living specimen as soon as it is dry. No other moth of my acquaintance fades so rapidly.

Repeatedly I am asked which I think the most beautiful of these big night moths. I do not know. All of them are indescribably attractive. Whether a pale green moth with purple markings is lovelier than a light yellow moth with heliotrope decorations, or a tan and brown one with pink lines, is a difficult thing to determine. When their descriptions are mastered, and the colour combinations understood, I fancy each person will find the one bearing most of his favourite colour the loveliest. It may be that on account of its artistically cut and coloured trailers, Luna has a touch of grace above any.

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Postby admin » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:58 pm


King of the Hollyhocks


Protoparce Celeus was the companion of Deilephila Lineata in the country garden where I first studied Nature. Why I was taught that Lineata was a bird, and Celeus a moth, it is difficult to understand, for they appear very similar when poising before flowers. They visit the same blooms, and vary but little in size. The distinction that must have made the difference was that while Lineata kept company with the hummingbirds and fed all day, Celeus came forth at dusk, and flew in the evening and at night. But that did not conclusively prove it a moth, for nighthawks and whip-poorwills did the same; yet unquestionably they were birds.

Opened Earth Ball Showing Work of Celeus Caterpillar and Pupa Case Found In It

Anyway, I always knew Celeus was a moth, and that every big, green caterpillar killed on the tomato vines meant one less of its kind among the flowers. I never saw one of these moths close [to] a tomato or potato vine, a jimson weed or ground cherry, but all my life I have seen their eggs on these plants, first of a pale green closely resembling the under side of the leaves, and if they had been laid some time, a yellow colour. The eggs are not dotted along in lines, or closely placed, but are deposited singly, or by twos, at least very sparsely.

The little caterpillars emerge in about a week, and then comes the process of eating until they grow into the large, green tomato or tobacco worms that all of us have seen. When hatched the caterpillars are green, and have grey caudal horns similar to Lineata. After eating for four or five days, they cast their skins. This process is repeated three or four times, when the full-grown caterpillars are over four inches long, exactly the colour of a green tomato, with pale blue and yellow markings of beautiful shades, the horns blue-black; and appearing sharp enough to inflict a severe wound.

Like all sphinx caterpillars Celeus is perfectly harmless, but this horn, in connexion with the habit the creatures have of clinging to the vines with the back feet, raising the head and striking from side to side, makes people very sure they can bite or sting, or inflict some serious hurt. So very vigorous are they in self-defence when disturbed, that robins and cuckoos are the only birds I ever have seen brave enough to pick them until the caterpillars loosen their hold and drop to the ground, where they are eaten with evident relish.

A Limberlost Cabin Around Which Celeus is Plentiful

One cuckoo of my experience that nested in an old orchard, adjoining a potato patch, frequently went there caterpillar-hunting, and played havoc with one wherever found. The shy, deep wood habits of the cuckoo prevent it from coming close [to] houses and into gardens, but robins will take these big caterpillars from tomato vines. However, they go about it rather gingerly, and the work of reducing one to non-resistance does not seem to be at all coveted. Most people exhibit symptoms of convulsions at sight of one. Yet it is a matter of education. I have seen women kiss and fondle cats and dogs, one snap from which would result in disfiguration or horrible death, and seem not to be able to get enough of them. But they were quite equal to a genuine faint if contact were suggested with a perfectly harmless caterpillar, a creature lacking all means of defence, save this demonstration of throwing the head.

When full-fed the caterpillars enter the earth to pupate, and on the fifteenth of October, 1906, only the day before I began this chapter, the Deacon, in digging worms for a fishing trip to the river, found a pupa case a yard from the tomato vines, and six inches below the surface. He came to my desk, carrying on a spade a ball of damp earth larger than a quart bowl. With all care we broke this as nearly in halves as possible and found in the centre a firm, oval hole, the size and shape of a hen's egg, and in the opening a fine fresh pupa case.

It was a beautiful red-brown in colour, long and slenderer than a number of others in my box of sand, and had a long tongue case turned under and fastened to the pupa between the wing shields. The sides of the abdomen were pitted; the shape of the head, and the eyes showed through the case, the wing shields were plainly indicated, and the abdominal shield was in round sections so that the pupa could twist from side to side when touched, proving that the developing moth inside was very much alive and in fine condition.

There were no traces of the cast skin. The caterpillar had been so strong and had pushed so hard against the surrounding earth that the direction from which it had entered was lost. The soil was packed and crowded firmly for such a distance that this large ball was forced together. Trembling with eagerness I hurriedly set up a camera. This phase of moth life often has been described, but I never before heard of anyone having been able to reproduce it, so my luck was glorious. A careful study of this ball of earth, the opening in which the case lies, and the pupa, with its blunt head and elaborate tongue shield, will convince anyone that when ready to emerge these moths must bore the six inches to the surface with the point of the abdomen, and there burst the case, cling to the first twig and develop and harden the wings. The abdominal point is sharp, surprisingly strong, and the rings of the segments enable it to turn in all directions, while the earth is mellow and moist with spring rains. To force a way head first would be impossible on account of the delicate tongue shield, and for the moth to emerge underground and dig to the surface without displacing a feather of down, either before or after wing expansion, is unthinkable. Yet I always had been in doubt as to precisely how the exit of a pupa case moth took place, until I actually saw the earth move and the sharp abdominal point appear while working in my garden. A few days later the Deacon found a larger pupa a yard from the place he had located the first one, but the spade cut the earth so it crumbled. I have had several fine pupae of this moth given me by Curry Pyle, a friend to my work.

Living pupae can be had in the fall, by turning a few shovels of soil close [to] vegetables in any country garden. In the mellow mould, among cabbages and tomato vines, around old log cabins close the Limberlost swamp, they are numerous, and the emerging moths haunt the sweet old-fashioned flowers.

The moth named Celeus, after a king of Eleusis, certainly has kingly qualities to justify the appellation. The colouring is all grey, black, brown, white and yellow, and the combinations are most artistic. It is a relative of Lineata. It flies and feeds by day, has nearly the same length of life, and is much the same in shape.

The head is small and sharp, eyes very much larger than Lineata, and tongue nearly four inches in length. The antennae are not clubbed, but long and hairlike. It has the broad shoulders, the long wings, and the same shape of abdomen. The wings, front and back, are so mottled, lined, and touched with grey, black, brown and white, as to be almost past definite description. The back wings have the black and white markings more clearly defined. The head meets the thorax with a black band. The back is covered with long, grey down, and joins the abdomen, with a band of black about a quarter of an inch wide, and then a white one of equal width. The abdomen is the gaudiest part of the moth. In general it is a soft grey. It is crossed by five narrow white lines the length of the abdomen, and a narrow black one down the middle. Along each side runs a band of white. On this are placed four large yellow spots each circled by a band of black that joins the black band of the spot next to it. The legs and under side of the abdomen and wings are a light grey-tan, with the wing markings showing faintly, and the abdomen below is decorated with two small black dots.

No Other Celeus So Big and Beautiful

My first Celeus, a very large and beautiful one, was brought to me by Mr. Wallace Hardison, who has been an interested helper with this book. The moth had a wing sweep of fully five and a half inches, and its markings were unusually bright and strong. No other Celeus quite so big and beautiful ever has come to my notice. From four and a half to five inches is the average size.

There was something the matter with this moth. Not a scale of down seemed to be missing, but it was torpid and would not fly. Possibly it had been stung by some parasite before taking flight at all, for it was very fresh. I just had returned from a trip north, and there were some large pieces of birch bark lying on the table on which the moth had been placed. It climbed on one of these, and clung there, so I set up the bark, and made a time exposure. It felt so badly it did not even close them when I took a brush and spread its wings full width. Soon after it became motionless. I had begun photographing moths recently; it was one of my very first, and no thought of using it for natural history purposes occurred at the time. I merely made what I considered a beautiful likeness, and this was so appreciated whenever shown, that I went further and painted it in water colours.

Since moth pictures have accumulated, and moth history has engrossed me with its intense interest, I have been very careful in making studies to give each one its proper environment when placing it before my camera. Of all the flowers in our garden, Celeus prefers the hollyhocks. At least it comes to them oftenest and remains at them longest. But it moves continually and flies so late that a picture of it has been a task. After years of fruitless effort, I made one passable snapshot early in July, while the light was sufficiently strong that a printable picture could be had by intensifying the plate, and one good time exposure as a Celeus, with half-folded wings, clambered over a hollyhock, possibly hunting a spot on which to deposit an egg or two. The hollyhock painting of this chapter is from this study. The flowers were easy but it required a second trial to do justice to the complicated markings of the moth.

This evening lover and strong flyer, with its swallow-like sweep of wing, comes into the colour schemes of nature with the otter, that at rare times thrusts a sleek grey head from the river, with the grey-brown cotton-tails that bound across the stubble, and the coots that herald dawn in the marshes. Exactly the shades, and almost the markings of its wings can be found on very old rail fences. This lint shows lighter colour, and even grey when used in the house building of wasps and orioles, but I know places in the country where I could carve an almost perfectly shaded Celeus wing from a weather-beaten old snake fence rail.

Celeus visits many flowers, almost all of the trumpet-shaped ones, in fact, but if I were an artist I scarcely would think it right to paint a hollyhock without putting King Celeus somewhere in the picture, poised on his throne of air before a perfect bloom as he feasts on pollen and honey. The holly-hock is a kingly flower, with its regally lifted heads of bright bloom, and that the king of moths should show his preference for it seems eminently fitting, so we of the Cabin named him King of the Hollyhocks.

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