My Digital Photography of

the Polyphemus Moth

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Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus

My first Polyphemus

One fall day in 2004, a package arrived from my friend, Matt.  It contained a very interesting looking cocoon that he found near Holland, MI.  I had never seen one like it.  I typed "leaf-covered cocoon" into Google and was soon convinced it must be a Polyphemus Moth cocoon.  Here are two views of it.

cocoon view 1.jpg (126620 bytes)  cocoon view 2.jpg (127520 bytes)

The Polyphemus moth acquired its name from a Greek god named Polyphemus, who was the son of Poseidon (Zeus's brother) in Greek mythology.  Polyphemus was a cyclops.  Polyphemus moths have two pairs of "eyes" to ward off predators.  They have no mouthparts for feeding or drinking.  They have a short lifespan of only four days.  

I read that they can have several broods throughout the year.  I determined that this moth should over-winter so that it would emerge at an appropriate time in the spring.  It was too late in the year to emerge any time soon.  I kept it in the garage, misting it every 1-2 weeks.  Near the beginning of May, when it had been warm outside, I brought it indoors, hoping to be able to witness the event when it emerged.

At about 8:00 p.m. on Friday the 13th of May, 2005, there was a thunderstorm but the temperature outside was pleasant, so I had the windows open.  The rain reminded me to mist the cocoon.  About a half hour later, I saw something on the side of the cage.  I hadn't expected it quite yet.  I knew I had to act fast because my hawk moth's wings had dried into a funny shape because it wasn't in the correct position to dry.  I didn't want that to happen to this moth.  I thought there might be a reason that it emerged during a rainstorm.  So I gently misted the moth's wings.  I found a long stick and the moth kept climbing up to the end.  I turned the stick and it would climb up the other way.  After a while, it finally decided to rest.  When I went to bed, it appeared that the wings were turning out ok.  It sure was neat to see a moth with such droopy wings though.  They were just flopping and draping over every surface.  Here are some pictures of the moth with its wet wings.

bottom view wing in focus only.jpg (108265 bytes)  crawling upwards with wet wings.jpg (124391 bytes)  draped wing side view.jpg (116652 bytes)

polyphemus showing ripples in wings face oof.jpg (124426 bytes)  inner view of wings from top.jpg (103829 bytes)  polyphemus top view draped wings.jpg (118541 bytes)

side view wings draped almost perfect.jpg (130184 bytes)  side view of wings face oof.jpg (138050 bytes)  polyphemus top view.jpg (139610 bytes)

soft wings top view.jpg (126163 bytes)  side wing view.jpg (109516 bytes)  upright wings fluttering.jpg (140609 bytes)

 

The following day, the moth was dry and tried to fly around the room a bit.  Here are some pictures of the fluttering moth.

flapping with rippled wings.jpg (132940 bytes)

flapping 2.jpg (140945 bytes)  flapping fur bkg.jpg (145213 bytes)  flapping with rippled wings 2.jpg (142221 bytes)

I also took a short movie of the moth with my digital camera.

Click here to see a movie of the Polyphemus Moth flapping its wings.

 

Here are a couple side views of the moth.

facing left closeup.jpg (139821 bytes)  hanging full view 3.jpg (109258 bytes)

 

Here are some pictures of the moth with its wings spread enough to show part or all of its second set of eyes.  Notice how the centers of the eye are transparent.  If you're wondering what the background is in many of the photos, it is an example of my artwork.  It is my woodburned door that you can see in its entirety on my Pyrography Page.

eyespots half showing at bottom of door 2.jpg (137660 bytes)  eyespots half showing at bottom of door 5.jpg (138868 bytes)  eyespots half showing at middle of door on stick2.jpg (129809 bytes)

eyespots half showing fur bkg.jpg (133655 bytes)  spread wings woodburned bkg 3.jpg (125086 bytes)  eyespots quarter showing but nice feather in bkg.jpg (133097 bytes)

spread wings bottom of door 3.jpg (128508 bytes)  spread wings deer jawbone bkg 2.jpg (135911 bytes)  spread wings bottom of door slightly sideways.jpg (131291 bytes)  

spread wings feather above.jpg (129072 bytes)  spread wings feather to left.jpg (150293 bytes)  spread wings feather underneath.jpg (132417 bytes)

front view on carpet 2.jpg (147471 bytes)

 

Here are some close-ups of the moth's fuzzy body and face.  I found out that this one is a female since it has narrow antenna fans.  The males have large fan-like antennae so that they can sense female pheromones.  

face closeup from top dark bkg 3.jpg (114192 bytes)  face closeup from top 2.jpg (136262 bytes)  fuzzy face closeup.jpg (138478 bytes)

hanging body closeup eyespot not showing completely 2.jpg (138670 bytes)  head closeup.jpg (148134 bytes)

 

One thing I didn't expect happened the afternoon of the 14th.  She started laying eggs even though she hadn't mated.  I took some pictures of her laying eggs as well as a close-up of the eggs.  By the time 9:00 p.m. passed, she had laid about 20 eggs.  

eggs one on the way oof.jpg (121021 bytes)  eggs one down one to go slightly oof.jpg (127998 bytes)  eggs after laying closeup of body.jpg (123182 bytes)

eggs.jpg (117258 bytes)

 

 

My second Polyphemus, 7 years later (June 23, 2011)

Wow time flies.  I didn't realize it had been so long since I'd seen one of these beautiful moths.  This time, the one I saw was right her in the Metro-Detroit area, right on my front porch by the light!  Unfortunately, I had limited time and didn't take many photographs.  I remembered that I had this whole page about the previous moth and figured I had enough.  I forgot that it was so long ago when I put together the first moth's photo shoot that I didn't even have a macro camera.  Now I wish I took more photos of this moth, since they all would have been macros.  Oh well.  At least I got to see her (and I held her too---that's how I got her wings to open up for the later photos).

     

     

 

 

 

My third Polyphemus, Proud Lake State Park 7-29-12

 

   

     

 

 

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