Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nature's Miracles

Although it was a bit tattered and appeared to be at the end of its one week life cycle, I feel fortunate to have seen this Giant Silk Moth called Polyphemus.  It has a wing span of 6 inches!
The big spots on its wings are used to mimic an owl's eyes. The Internet states that the moth usually keeps its wings closed so as to pass itself off as a brown leaf, unless it feels threatened. It will then open its wings to reveal the eye spots.  It creates the illusion of a blink by opening and closing its wings.  I think the eye spots would be be very convincing at night. 
I have been trying for some time to get a good look at one of these butterflies, but they always seem to be on the move. I was excited to capture this picture of it with its wings open! The butterfly is called a Red Admiral. The Internet states that these butterflies migrate to Texas for the Winter, breed, and the new hatch heads north in the Spring. 
This discovery has been a real mystery and truly one of nature's miracles! It took some serious inspection to determine that it wasn't a pinecone, but a cocoon made up of dried Live Oak leaves.  The awe sets in, when one begins to ponder how an insect could build such an amazing work of art and transport it or the materials to build it 7 feet up a fence!  Following are some internet pictures of the Bagworm's creations made from various plant materials and the unveiling of how the creation is made. 
The female Bagworm moth lays her eggs in the cocoon she created while in her caterpillar form.  Her life cycle ends.
The caterpillars that emerge from the cocoon begin spinning their own silky cocoons as they feed.  Their cocoons are open on both ends like a tube.  Each caterpillar places pieces of plant matter onto its silky cocoon as it drag it along.  The cocoons are constructed of leaves, stems, and even berries.  As can be imagined, a large number of these caterpillars would be very destructive to the host plant.  They are, therefore, considered a pest.  Great cocoon architects, though!
As the caterpillars ready themselves to pupate, they drag the cocoon upward to attach it. They seal the ends of the cocoon, and wait to awaken as moths.
The male moths leave their cocoons to mate, and the females prepare the cocoon they emerged from for the eggs they will lay.  The cycle then begins again!