Monarchs in the Morning, Lunas in the Evening

Wow. When I guessed that I would post less in my blog once I had a full-time job I was not mistaken. As it is I am barely doing all of the things I once adored, like getting enough sleep, going birding frequently, exercising infrequently, hand-shaking my whipped cream in a Mason Jar, working on Wild Peace Farm

But I have nevertheless done all of those things some, and also joined two book clubs, learned a lot about infectious disease, and continued to rescue caterpillars (#whorescuedwho?). Guys if you do one thing as a result of reading this blog post, I profoundly hope that it is click on that #link which is to an Amy Schumer clip.

But seriously, who rescued who?Monarch 2015

I mean yes, caterpillars get mowed into hay more often than I want them to. And yes, sometimes if I bring them inside I may save them from this fate. Or perhaps from being predated or from hosting a nasty parasite. But I also love seeing their lifecycle up close. I love how their tentacles get bigger every time they molt. I love how their chrysalis turns clear before the butterfly comes out. And I love love love times infinity how the butterflies sit on my fingers when they first come out of their chrysalis because they love me can’t fly yet. I always let them go as soon as they can or nearly can fly, because in the end I want the wild things to be wild and free, and to perhaps help increase their pretty migratory population which is in decline. The lovely lady pictured above is now in Rock Creek Park, after coming out of her chrysalis early this morning.

Still, as a ponderous and neurotic person I have to consider the other perspective, which is that I am interfering with the delicate ecological balance of the natural world, and perhaps creating unimagined problems. People have indeed been known to make a mess of things when they interfere. I don’t imagine myself to be any different. You know those deer everyone is always complaining about? There were actually no deer in Maryland something like 100 years ago. Humans had hunted them to death. Then someone got the bright idea to reintroduce the gentle helpless creatures and my they did well. Among other things their massive numbers are eating many species of plants into a similar nonexistence. This includes the plant that our state insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, eats as a caterpillar. As a result of all this deer meddling there are now only a handful of places where our representative butterfly can be seen in its own state.

I say all this in part because uncertainty about my actions, or about what others might think of them, has also contributed to my lack of blog posts. A lot of my engagement with the natural world continues to involve Monarchs, and it has recently expanded to include Luna Moths. Awhile ago somebody gave me a local Luna Moth caterpillar (I say local because they did not order it in the mail, a practice I think is much more problematic. They found and bred its ancestors in Maryland). I kept my Luna Moth caterpillar, who turned out to be a female moth, and then I put her outside the night she emerged from her cocoon. At first I left her in a container, thinking she might mate with a male through the openings, and that I could keep her eggs. She didn’t seem happy to be contained though, so I set her out on a vine in the backyard and checked on her until around midnight. Luna Moth females “call” to males using a pheromone, and according to the internet there is a particular hour when this species like to turn the lovely smell on. Males will fly for miles to where a calling female is sitting pretty, using their exceptionally large male antennae to find the source of the scent. No one had come to her when I went to bed that night, but the following morning there were two moths sitting together in the same spot, touching butts. I brought her inside in a container where she sat still until around 11:00pm on the 4th of July, when she began laying her eggs in a paper bag. I only wanted a few eggs to keep, so after I heard her rustling around for ten minutes I freed her beneath a sky filled with fireworks.

I am very proud to report that those eggs have grown up! The first of the cocoons is empty tonight. A beautiful male Luna Moth came out while I was at that old full time job, and he was waiting for me on the edge of his container when I got home. Luna Moth 2nd Generation

Hey buddy. Males tend to be a little yellower as you can see here. They are also a lot more excitable than the ladies, who start out by sitting still and letting the world come to them. This man was rearing to get out and see the things with the short time he has. Like all Lunas, he has no mouth as an adult. Don’t worry, he got to spend every day and night eating for 3.5 weeks. I got to spend every day and night bringing him and his siblings masses of Sweet Gum leaves. Now he is off to pursue more private pleasures with the 3-7 days he has left.

So here you have the post where I confess some of my nefarious undertakings. In nature let the adults be free to be fruitful and multiply, but I hope that you will judge me lightly for my interactions with the youngsters. Here is to the pursuit of pleasure, and to the hope that what we love brings forth more beautiful things.

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Filed under Butterfly, caterpillars, Insects!

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