Moth notes 29 March 2019

Great excitement today because my Emperor Moth pupae, which I have kept  in the garden since late July, last year were waking up. Yesterday, mid-afternoon, a female chewed her way out of one of the cocoons and crawled her way up the net that I had placed her in.  This morning I placed the net on a some fencing in the garden and, lo and behold, when I was in the shower, my wife called, “ there are males in the garden and I have netted one”.  We have been married 47 years so I knew she meant moths.  

If you are reading this with no knowledge of moths you may be thinking what is this man on about? Well, here’s the thing (Where has that come from?  Everyone is now saying here’s the thing, me included).  Moths and Butterflies, the Lepidoptera, have a life cycle of egg-caterpillar-pupa-adult.  Some can achieve these 4 stages a couple of times a year, some it takes a year and some 3, 4 or more years.  The Emperor Moth though, a native moth, is one of those that does it all in one year usually. 

 I was given Emperor eggs some ten years ago as a gift and have been rearing them each year since so the sequence of events is well practised. When moths emerge from the pupae ( usually in mid to late April , so note they are early this year) I separate the males from the females, which is simple with Emperor Moths not the least because they are visually different but also the male moths have feathery antennae while the females do not.  The females are then placed in a net hanging from the washing line.  The males are placed in a net too but locked up in the garage.  

Where I am now with my female Emperor is that she is in the net on the washing line and, by emitting pheromones, has attracted a “wild” male which my wife has caught.  This is part of the plan because I want the female mated with a “wild” male rather than with her brothers who are in the garage.   

I, now dried and clothed I must say, have come down into the garden and have introduced the netted “wild” male to the net containing the female.  He flaps around in a frenzy, it seems every where the female is not (oh! the passion of youth) but what is this?  Another male is in the garden, attracted by the pheromones, who is caught and put in the net with the male and female and this boy knows what is what.  He couples up with the female almost immediately.  I leave them to it, not sure if insect porn is a crime.  One hour later they are uncoupled. This troubles me a little because in the past those that have coupled stay that way for two to three hours.   Has he done the business?  I have done though as I usually do, which is once uncoupling is completed, placed the female in a box with egg laying material, and hope for the best.  The males have been released.  It is the best I can do for them.

I am writing this on the night of the 29thMarch so will not know till tomorrow whether eggs have been laid.  I need not have worried though- the eggs are laid, I just hope they are fertilized. It usually takes three weeks for caterpillars to emerge from the eggs.  Just watch this space. 

Text and pictures kindly provided by Gordon Redford

Pictures from top to bottom:
Emperors in cop
Emperor Moth Eggs
Female Emperor Moth
Male Emperor Moth

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