Although I had originally planned to share these photos at a later time, I became so enamored of them that I could no longer wait.  Call it premature posting…  Yep, I’m guilty.

When first I arrived at the family farm yesterday morning, one of the immediate things I saw was a collection of giant moths hanging around the central light pole in the main yard.  It’s not unusual to see these large insects loitering there.  In fact, nightfall often brings with it a virtual plague of Luna moths (Actias luna) that covers the pole from top to bottom, a recurring event which makes the entire structure look like one massive writhing organism of fluttering wings.  It’s a stunning visual simply due to the unbelievable number of the creatures that horde together in that one place at one time.

And although I did see some Luna moths while I was there, it was not that particular species which so quickly grabbed my attention.  The winged beasts I saw first are even larger, and I believe them to be even more beautiful.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

A male polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) resting on the ground (177_7744)

That is a male Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), one of the giant silk moth species.  Its wingspan reaches 6 inches (15 centimeters).  This particular specimen was about that large and easily covered the whole of my hand.

I cannot stress enough how spectacular these winged insects are when viewed up close.  For that matter, they’re quite enchanting when viewed from a distance because their size lends itself to easy appreciation from almost any range.  Yet to be near them and see the wonderful detail and colors melded together on something that seems frail and gigantic at the same time is to behold one of nature’s dazzling displays.  Take this close-up as an example.

A close-up of a Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) (177_7745)

What exquisite magnificence they present.  What marvelous artwork they are.

A Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) resting on the ground (177_7748)

Some part of me felt as though I shared something with the first mind to imagine a dragon, to see from the inside what it might be like to stand before a creature of myth and magic capable of bridging the gap between humanity’s appreciation of creativity and nature’s ability to outdo us every single time.  Very much unlike that first primitive soul to think of fire-breathing reptiles, however, I didn’t need to visualize some impossible monster in order to see the universe’s own fantastic fancy.  I needed only to look at what rested before my eyes.

And here’s a closer shot from that last photo showing the plumed antennae indicating this was indeed a male of the species.

A close-up of the plumed antennae of a Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) (177_7748_1)

Unfortunately for him, the male lay on the ground because his life ebbed from his body.  You see, they congregated around the light pole to mate, after which the males fluttered away weakly so that they might die while the females remained behind to deposit the hope of future generations in those places where they might be safe.  The women folk then likewise took leave of their young so that they too might go and breathe their last, a gasp or two coming so soon after the children of tomorrow had been given their best chance.

Some of those females could still be found on the pole.  One such lass had hidden away in the shadow of an electrical box where she remained unseen from all but the most prying eyes.  Like mine.

A Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) hidden in the shadows (177_7795)

One might wonder why they stayed there after their carnal rendezvous had ended.  That question has a simple answer: to complete what they had started.

I found one such female on another side of the light where she had become weak and almost lifeless.  Her intention kept her going, though.  Until her business had been completed, I doubted she would let go of the pole and allow her body to fall listlessly to the ground below.

A female Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) laying eggs on the side of a light pole (177_7793)

What you see attached to the pole beneath her abdomen is the fruit of her labors and her mate’s giving of his last moments to ensure the longevity of their kind.  Soon after she completed her final task, her body fell lifeless to the grass and added to the growing collection of moth wings and bodies littering the ground.  She had given her all for a generation she would never know and never see.  All her hopes rested in those tiny inconspicuous dots left clinging to a simple light pole.

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