Mating Mothra…

Pieces of a puzzle, that’s how I feel about today’s events just above my garage door.  Over the last couple of years I have had hints of the differing phases/activities of the large and beautiful Polyphemus Moth’s  life cycle happening just outside my door.  It all started  when late that summer I found a large cocoon nestled in the voluminous asparagus fern on the back deck.  The cocoon was about the size of a medium chicken egg and was wrapped in sweet potato vine leaf layers, courtesy of another planter nearby.  It intrigued me, so I set out to observe it hoping it would reveal its contents.  It did not….it left an empty cocoon with a big chewed up hole on the side.

Later that same fall, I saw a very large moth on my front walkway; identifying that moth helped me identify the cocoon.  I had also noticed some fuzzy yellowish caterpillars on the driveway but had failed to document them with my camera…apparently their “worm-ish” quality did not pique my attention for very long. If I had taken a photo, I would have had another piece of my puzzle, but alas I will now be on the look-out for these caterpillars over the next few weeks.

coccoon 1
Polyphemus Moth cocoon- wrapped in birch leaves

Since that first cocoon I have discovered more in and around our River Birch trees, plainly visible after all the leaves have fallen or blown away in the Kansas autumn winds.  Earlier this summer I discovered another cocoon wrapped in birch leaves and once again perched in the fern. (I think it may be one that wintered over and did not survive.)  Today however, I could see the results of some cocoon(s) that our birches have harbored this spring as there they were- my mating “mothras”

mating wings closed
Closed wing Polyphemus Moths mating

I had read that these moths don’t eat, that they emerge from the cocoon- mating the same day- dependent on finding another moth through their antennae and pheromones.  Fascinating!  Then that evening the female will lay brown eggs on the (birch) leaves and start the whole process over again.  The clues in this mystery are falling in place and it is exciting to witness.

mating wings open
Polyphemus Moths mate with characteristic wing “eyes” visible

The Polyphemus Moths, (North American member of the family Saturniidae, giant silk moths) are quite large and can be up to over 5″ in wingspread.  They also sport large “eyes” on their wings- which is where their name is derived…Polyphemus, the Cyclops blinded by Odysseus.  These eye-like markings (visible when wings are spread) give the illusion of  a Great Horned Owl face serving as protection from any would be predators. It would have to be a big and courageous predator to overtake these moths. No wonder they have been inspiration for the monster film Mothra and named after after a mythological character!

Antheraea Polyphemus Moth on our walkway…see how small the “spinner” seems next to this Mothra sized guy!

I feel so privileged and grateful for the opportunity to witness this fascinating process- pieces of a Nature puzzle being slowly revealed!  I never know what I will find when I step out into my yard or cast my view over Green Heron Pond.  Hopefully I can be watchful to document the entire cycle of these fabulous silk moths; lovely creatures who have chosen to live here among the birch trees at Green Heron Pond.

Kitty Respite

It has been a long hot summer these last four days…Dan and I had attended a family reunion last week (in the temperate upper Midwest, sigh) only to return Monday to 100 degree temps, hot winds and a second major fish kill on the pond.  Pretty devastating for our fish population and “weary-ing” to Dan and I as we try to figure out where, how we could possibly dispose of the remains this time.  The only creatures (besides flies)  capitalizing on the fish kill are the herons picking off the few tiny remaining fish, raptor style- flying over the middle of the pond and scooping their prey up as they pass low over the water.

So, due to heat, stench and sad frustration I have stayed inside and directed my energies and I do mean energy  to the three felines who reside here at Green Heron Pond. Reggie, 16 years old (amazing for a feral cat colony defector) who has been featured in a previous post.  The other two, usually referred to as “The Kitties”, though now 2 years old complete the “cat kennel” I never planned on or anticipated…

kitties dining room window
The Kitties bird watching

Bob and Sofia, named by someone else -from a previous home or lack thereof as both were rescues.  Bob coming from a neighborhood rescue effort and Sofia, a humane society kitty- who rescued Bob’s life a second time.  First of all I would never have named Bob “Bob”… he needed a more definitive/fitting moniker and Sofia, well I kept thinking of Sofia Vergara and this petite, shy tabby didn’t quite fit that vision.  Sofia or Sofie as we sometimes call her forever changed the dynamics of our (cat) household though and kept me from being hunted down by the ASPCA due to Bob…

What can I say about Bob?  I love him but he is an incredible pill at times…  As a tiny kitten he had the loudest and most obnoxious “Yeooww” and generally drove Reggie, Dan and I to distraction with all of his antics.  He was relentless in his pursuit of Reggie wherever Reg might be, even to the litter box…  Plus Bob- when small enough, was known for sticking his head down the garbage disposal looking for any remnants of fruit or veggies he might filch from its depths.  To this day he loves strawberries and blueberries and will still lurk about the sink for any it is just easier to give him a small bite and have it over with.

ya wanna brush yer teeth
You wanna brush your teeth??

On the other hand Bob is one of the most affectionate felines I have ever known; very curious, “soft paws” in play and follows you everywhere… except outdoors as these young cats are indoor dwellers due to foxes, coyotes, raccoons etc that sometime frequent our yard by the pond.  Reggie still (slowly) gets around a bit outdoors- content to lie on the deck at dawn and dusk or take an occasional stroll around the house- under supervision. I believe I could outmaneuver him outdoors if needed- the other two, NO…

Sofia would rather play than eat and lets you know she wants to play by putting her paw on your shoulder or running around you- meowing then heading into the kitty play room (sometimes known as my living room).  She has had such a calming effect on Bob, he in turn has helped her come out of her shy ways and she loves Reggie dearly.

sof n reg
Sofie n Reg at nap time

Obviously entertainment is a necessity and we provide as much as we can.  Tube tunnels, cubicles, toys and a “catio” where they can sit outdoors in an enclosed area and view the wondrous world of Green Heron Pond….

Cat door and ramps in a basement window well lead to outdoor viewing from the catio.

I am awaiting the return of that wondrous world  on the pond….no stench, no ghost carp sailing by, no bass or small bloated perch along the shoreline.  In the meantime we will keep close company with Reg, Bob and Sofia; playing, eating and napping in the cool.  Sounds good to me…