I'm going to let Jerry Rudy tell this story. He wrote several weeks ago, "You will remember the Silk Moth that ended up on my back door about a year ago. She laid a bunch of eggs on a native azalea in our yard. These hatched into larvae that John Sperry and I kept fed with Ceanothus until they built their beautiful cocoons. The cocoons were attached to sticks and I placed several in our garden that is protected by netting and waited for the next stage of their life.
"Three days ago moths began to emerge from those cocoons; a female and two males so far. This is the female shortly after she emerged from her cocoon. She has inflated her wings and is ready to mate."
Jerry continues, "That night several males showed up and we found them hanging on the garden netting trying to enter the garden. We picked them off the netting and placed them near the new female. The female is still hanging onto her cocoon on the far left."
The female has moved away from her cocoon. One of the visiting males has attached his abdomen to hers and he hangs below her. Notice the difference in the size and shape of the male and female antennae."
"They remain attached for several hours as the male transferred seminal fluids to the female. By the end of their mating, the male's abdomen has shriveled up, while the female's became much plumper. Note how worn the male's wings are as a result of his efforts to find this female.
"Since these pictures were taken the female has laid several clutches of eggs that we intend to move to a nearby Ceanothus bush. Thus the circle has closed."
One of the strangest creatures on the Mendonoma Coast is the caterpillar stage of a Ceanothus Silk Moth. I shared a fantastic photo of Jerry Rudy where he witnessed a female Silk Moth lay her eggs. He watched the eggs hatch and has tended them since. Except when he had to be away from the Coast for a while and he asked his friend, John Sperry, to tend them. John took the first photo of this exotic-looking caterpillar.
When the caterpillars have stored up enough energy, they begin to spin their cocoon, as photographed by Jerry.
Below are several cocoons. The Silk Moths spin a silk thread a mile long into an intricate double-chambered cocoon.
And below is the finished cocoon. The pupae will reside inside during the rest of the year and into spring.
In spring, the lovely Ceanothus Silk Moth emerges to live only a few days. The one below was photographed by Clay Yale. This moth is about four inches across.
What a metamorphosis!
Thanks to John, Jerry and Clay for allowing me to share their photos with you here.
Jerry Rudy had a Ceanothus Silkmoth pay a visit to his Timber Cove home. And she was pregnant. Here's what Jerry wrote, “This mother moth showed up on our doorstep last week. We set her on a native azalea and she promptly laid about 50 eggs. I believe they hatch in about 10 days and I am considering moving them onto our local Ceanothus.”
You can see the eggs on the azalea stalk. Amazing photo!
And here is a photo Wendy Bailey took a few weeks ago of this beautiful, big moth.
Thanks to Jerry and Wendy for allowing me to share their photos with you here.