Western Polyphemus

Antheraea oculea

a Western Polyphemus, Antheraea oculea, photo © by M. Plagens

Observed in Madera Canyon, Sta. Cruz Co., Arizona, USA. 28 July 2013.

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If you happen to be driving through a dark, quiet canyon after the summer monsoon rains have started, you have a good chance of spotting an eerie purple light reflected from an old bed sheet. Huh? What's that? It's an ultraviolet light used by an entomologist to attract an amazing array of night-active insects.

Four big eyespots on the wings can be suddenly revealed if the earthtone coloration fails to camouflage this very large moth from birds. The supposition is that these eyes will sometimes startle the bird or insectivorous mammal long enough for the moth to escape. The big green caterpillar of this insect can be found feeding on a variety of tree leaves before it spins a cocoon and undergoes metamorphosis inside. The adult moths do not feed and have rather short life spans once they get their wings.

Saturniidae -- Silk Moth Family

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light setup for collection of moths at night

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 7 August 2014