Thursday, June 6, 2024

Fake bird.

     Cicadas aren't the only insects on earth you know. It only seems that way, at the moment. (Someone asked me what the cicadas were like in Northbrook, and I said it's like being an extra in the David Lynch film "Eraserhead.") Right now, for a non-cicada bug to be noticed, it has to practically leap out in front of you.
     Which is more or less what this handsome specimen of a polyphemus moth did, showing up smack in the middle of the sidewalk while I escorted Kitty down Catherine Street the other morning. It wasn't flapping, but just sort of resting there — a sure sign of distress, as moths are nocturnal.
    People go on and on about butterflies, though moths are practically the same — less colorful, more furry, denizens of the night instead of the day. Moths rest with their wings spread, as above, while butterflies in repose fold their wings back.   
    I assumed the moth must be dying, and didn't want to molest the poor creature as it expired. Though I took this photo of it — upside down, and kept it that way because you really see how the moth disguises itself as a great horned owl, at least long enough to give a predator pause and perhaps facilitate the moth's escape.
     No escape for this poor fellow, I'm afraid. Walking away, it struck me that, in nearly a quarter century perambulating around the ol' leafy suburban paradise, I don't believe I've ever seen one before. For a moment I slowed, thinking I should turn back and, I don't know, collect it or something. Pin the thing in a frame, as a trophy. 
     I kept going. Kinda late for me to take up butterfly-and-or-moth collecting. Beside, one of the key functions that moths and butterflies fill is to transform plant material into animal food, by being eaten. Best to leave this behind as a snack for some hungry bird.
     A fate both moths and butterflies try to avoid, using camouflage — blending into their surroundings — and mimicry, as above, pretending to be something they're not.
     A common defense in the animals world, including humans, now that I think of it. I sure try to present myself as a bigger, fiercer creature than I actually am. Nor am I alone. At the risk of veering political, this fragile Lepidoptera posing as an hardy avian predator could remind us of a certain brittle, weak and dim-witted egomaniac puffing himself as a strongman genius looking out for the common man. 
     Or maybe not — this bug isn't hideous, for starters. Nature might be indifferent, but it's rarely cruel. For some people, cruelty seems the whole point of their existence.


  1. Librarian (to young boy): "Are you sure you want this book?
    The book's title: "Advice to Young Mothers."
    Young boy: "Yes, ma'am...I'm collecting moths."

    [Reader's Digest, circa 1960]

  2. Very interesting. The moth's colors seems to be designed to look like owl eyes but that's really evolution, right?

  3. I am very envious! I have only seen ONE polyphemus moth in my lifetime, and that was when I was a child. And its not for lack of looking, either. I have participated in "mothing" events (involves a Light Sheet and lots of mosquito repellent), and I always keep an eye out for butterflies, moths and dragonflies when I am out birding, too. Consider yourself blessed by the natural world to have seen this beauty. I don't think people can really 'find' a polyphemus moth.... the polyphemus moth finds you!


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.