When I talked about the stunning Polyphemus moths (Antheraea polyphemus) hanging about at the family farm, I also mentioned the usual presence of large numbers of Luna moths (Actias luna). Truth be told, East Texas’ second growth offers a comfortable habitat for many creatures, and that includes an untold number of giant moths. I even shared some images of the blinded sphinx moth (Paonias excaecatus) I discovered. He unfortunately escaped unnoticed while everyone was otherwise occupied with the rather large snake which had invaded the chicken coop.
Nevertheless, those two examples are but a small taste of the large winged beasts living in that area. There are also smaller moths, yes, but it’s the ginormous variety that often—and more easily—catches people’s attention.
But they don’t always get seen.
While I scampered about snapping photos during that visit, I chanced upon another giant moth that had gone unnoticed by everyone else. In fact, Mom specifically mentioned she would never have seen it had I not pointed it out to her.
It’s position on the central light pole kept it just above eye level. As humans are disinclined to notice things above and below a forward glance, this position helped the impressive monster go undetected until I arrived in the middle of the morning.
By that time, most of the fist-sized moths had disappeared. Many had fallen to the ground, their life energy expended in the final throws of mating passion. Others—all of them male—still had vitality left to share with available females, so they had flown away in search of the next coupling.
I walked around the pole capturing image after image of wings softer than wisps of air. That’s when I saw this:
Perfectly hidden above prying eyes and beautifully camouflaged against ashen wood, this plebeian sphinx moth (Paratrea plebeja) held its ground as I approached. Not once did it so much as twitch even as my camera moved within a whisper of its body.
I snapped a few photos in this position before trying to get something from the side.
That’s when it bolted.
I never did get a view that would help identify its gender. With so much life left—at least enough to fly away with great speed and agility… for a moth—I suspect it was a male. Then again, it equally could have been a female who either had not mated and laid eggs, or who had not expelled her last breath while laying eggs.
Off it went, though. I watched its gossamer wings flutter effortlessly on still air. Safe from the digital menace I pushed into its personal space, it flitted toward thick woodlands and disappeared amongst heavy foliage.
I wish I had more to offer of this stunning and large moth. Even though I don’t, I can tell you the larger version of that image provides striking details of this flier’s exquisite magnificence.