A Small Piece of Night

A few weeks ago Cynthia and I went for a long walk through Seidman Park, a beautiful bunch of trails which cover a gamut of terrain, from marsh to ravine, to field and forest. Around the south end of the park we noticed that some trees had several odd-looking objects hanging from the branches. Curiosity drove me to pull one off and bring it home:

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I suspected that it was a cocoon of some kind, and a few minutes of browsing the internet confirmed that it was the cocoon of a Promethea Moth (Callosamia promethea). I left it on a table in my house for a few weeks, then this afternoon, upon returning home from a truly whacky day, I discovered that it had hatched.

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It was still shaky and soft and moving slowly, pumping its wings up to full size and letting the tissues dry and firm up. This made it quite easy to photograph.

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I left it alone and went out. Upon returning a few hours later I saw that it seemed to be ready to be let out, so I took it to my back yard and set it on a low branch.

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About an hour later I looked outside just in time to see a small piece of midnight flutter past a streetlight on its way to places unknown.

The saturniid moths, never all that common, are becoming increasingly rare due, in no small part, to light pollution. During mating season they orient themselves by the light of the moon, and with so many bright man-made lights out in the world, the moths get confused as to where they should fly, and so miss one another. When your entire adult life lasts a week, getting stood up for a date is a deeply tragic affair.

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