Monday, August 1, 2011

Exotic Moth Emerges

Our first exotic moth: an African Moon Moth has emerged for display at the Festival of Butterflies which opens at 9a.m. on Friday (August 5th).

African Moon Moths (Argema mimosae) are simply spectacular and must be seen alive and in person! The unique lemon-lime green quickly fades as it is pigment and not refracted light like the everlasting blues of the morpho. Their exceptionally long streamer tails are just hindwing extentions and give this moth another name: the comet moth. They are related to our native Luna Moths but are much larger with a wing span of 7 inches.

The African Moon Moth cocoons arrived last Friday. We have special USDA permits to display them and have a strict protocol on their preparation and display. The cocoons are smaller than hen's eggs. The caterpillar had spun them on the side of a twig and I glued them to a wooden dowel at the same connection where the twig was. The origin of these moth was from "butterfly farms" in Kenya.

Here's me with a dowel of African Moon Moth cocoons. We received 45 cocoons in this first shipment. (photo by receptionist Roland Thibault) Yes, we wear lab coats in the receiving room as part of our USDA protocol.

I showed off the cocoons to some young visitors on the way to their emergence cases in the conservatory (photo by Roland Thibault).

Our first African Moon Moth is held by Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor this morning. They are not easily handled and act jumpy just like our native Luna Moths. We will do our best to make sure a few of these spectacular moths are in easy view for a reasonably close encounter and photo opportunity during the Festival of Butterflies.

We also received cocoons of the Rothschild Silkmoth (Rothschildia lebeau) from Costa Rica and still plan to receive a fresh shipment of Atlas Moths (Attacus atlas -- the world's largest moth) from Southeast Asia (the shipment last week was delayed by a typhoon!). We look forward to sharing these as well as Blue Morphos from Costa Rica and butterflies from Florida in the Conservatory. The breezeways will be full of locally raised native butterflies and the wild butterflies in the gardens are putting on a great show too. Be sure and stop by the "Caterpillar Experience" to view some of the many unique caterpillars found in our area. See you on Friday!

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