Nature Finds: A Mysterious Stranger

 We discovered this lovely stranger crawling across the pasture the other day.  It had silvery twinkles all over it.  It was a Luna moth.

When I was a child, my dad and I raised a bunch of Luna moths from eggs.  Of course my dad did most of it, but I helped him gather sweet gum leaves to feed them.  They got bigger and less prickly, and finally were glowing green and very fat like our caterpillar above, and ready to pupate.  Every day when I got home from school I would check the cocoons to see if any had hatched.  Some days there were two or three, some days there weren’t any.  My dad showed me how the males had fuzzier antennae than the females.  In the evening we would walk to the park to let them go.

 We had to be very careful to wait until the birds were asleep, or they might eat one of our moths.  I would hold the huge moths in my small hands, watching them vibrate their wings to warm them up, before finally kicking off and flying away into the night.  Sometimes they wouldn’t make it into the air on the first try, so we would pick them up and give them another chance.

Once (I think this actually happened with Polyphemus moths we’d raised right after the Lunas) the moth took off flying before it was dark enough.  A mocking bird swooped out of the trees and snatched it out of the air!  We ran after it and scared it so that it dropped our moth.  The moth was okay, but had a little notch out of both wings.  We picked him up to keep safe until it was darker.  After we left the spot, the mocking bird came back and was turning over leaves where it knew the moth had dropped, looking for it again.

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