Cocoon Identity

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)April 14, 2014

I raised over a dozen luna moths late last fall, and they overwintered. Three have emerged, and the two females were visited by males early in the night, but didn't leave me any spill-over eggs.

The other day, I found a cocoon on an old magnolia leaf, one of those leaves that will likely be shed this year, once the new growth has fully formed. At first I assumed it was a luna moth, since that's mostly what I see here. But after looking at the color, I thought it might be a polyphemus moth. I pulled the silk off the leaf and laid it in the cage with the home-raised lunas and noticed that it was considerably heavier than the luna moth cocoons. Also, this one has what might have been a 'bag' when it was spun, but was dessicated over the winter. Could the long straight thing at the top have been the top of the cecropia 'bag'? I would be happy to see a polyphemus moth, not having seen one in a while, but I'd completely flip over a cecropia - they're EXTREMELY rare here.

Anyway, this picture shows the luna cocoon on the right, and the mystery cocoon on the left -

It might be that the color difference comes from the fact that this one was outside, instead of in the cage on my porch, not being affected by rain. But on this rainy day I'm wondering about it.

Anybody have any ideas as to the ID of the the cocoon on the left?

Sherry

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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Well, You know I don't know, but I am excited for you. I did a bit of looking around, and I did find something that would lead me to guess polyphemus based on the color and shape comparisons. Check this out:

mothhttp://northwestbutterflies.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 2:04PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I can't cut and paste the link, Angie, but you're probably right, polyphemus is a good bet.

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 3:10PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I don't see an escape valve so I doubt it is a cecropia.

Poly seems most likely but it has a lot of extra silk for a poly.

You might have a surprise that got blown across the Gulf.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 3:54PM
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tucker_sp(Z4 MN)

For what it's worth, I grew up in an area where cecropias were very common, and I've never seen a cecropia cocoon that had the outer casing of the cocoon shredded over the winter like that. Coupled with the fact that polyphemus cocoons are often connected to leaves or twigs with a net of silk, unlike lunas, I vote for polyphemus as well.

Tucker

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 6:05PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I'll be very excited if the polyphemus votes are right, Tucker!

And I'd be even more excited if something exotic blew in, KC! :0

Do polyphemus moths have just one flight a year, or are they like lunas, have multiple generations?

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 6:26PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Try this one Sherry

http://northwestbutterflies.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 6:28PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Sherry,

Looks like a Polyphemus to me.

Lucky you!

Sandy

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:42PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Sherry,
Polys have multiple broods. Three is the most I've had. I'm guessing your area would be 4 or 5. I've read that southern Florida has 6 broods a year.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:01AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Thanks, KC!
Sherry

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:43AM
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dragonflydee

Sherry,

I find Polys here most often on a young Oak frequently within reach
Hanging down wrapped in a shroud of leaves.They are smooth,hard
And Gray-white cocoons usually easy to spot because the winter-dead
Oak leaves will be brown,and do not cover the cocoon completely.

They are very common in south AL where Oaks,and Oak scrub are
Present.

I can't really tell from the picture but it could be...

DD

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 7:32PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

DD, I found a poly cocoon quite a few years ago on a lower branch of a big water oak. This cocoon was on a magnolia tree, which has a water oak on one side and a black cherry on the other, with several sweetgums within a few feet. Lunas prefer sweetgum here, and, like you said, polys use the oaks.

It's always exciting to find a coccon!

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:26PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Ta da!!

It's a HUGE female polyphemus moth! I had put her cocoon near the back of the cage, away from the door, but she must have scooted to the door right after she emerged from her cocoon. So, I moved her back, and I put a measuring stick in the cage next to her - her wing span is somewhere between 5" and 6" - a female luna moth emerged, and her wingspan is only 3" although her abdomen is real big. The poly's comb is actually stringlike, much thinner than it looks in the above picture, and her abdomen is huge, looks like it's full of eggs. I'll be most interested to see if she gets a suitor tonight! Polys aren't as common as lunas in this area, so she might go beggin' - let's hope not.

I tried to get a picture of her while her wings were open, but the pictures were so blurry, I deleted most of them. I'm still learning how to use this camera, but here's a half way decent picture I got of her with her wings semi-opened. She has a lot of red on her topside, typical of the polys in this area - they're not brown and orange here, but brown, orange and red -

And here's the cute little (comparatively) luna -

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 8:05PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Thanks for solving the mystery. I'll have to remember the extra silk does not mean much.

My first poly of the year eclosed a couple days ago but he spent the winter inside my house. I expected wasps because I saw a wasp on his cocoon before I brought it inside. Anyway, that is why he did not spend the winter with this brethren.

I've had five IOs eclose but they are early too. The girls are attracting nobody. My wife thinks they are puny because she is used to the big moths.

KC

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 8:34PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

She's beautiful. Hope a mate appears and you get to raise more.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 12:30PM
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dragonflydee

Sherry

I am so glad she got out with no problems.

Where I live there would be no problem getting a male;
They should breed as soon as you turn him in to her.

I raised my cats on tender oak leaves always,but I
Guess there are other food plants...

I had a poly cocoon abt a season ago and it emerged
A male;I forgot to post abt it.

Good luck with her

DD

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 3:25PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I checked on both moths last night, and the luna had left the cage by about ?9:00. The poly had left by about ?11:00 p.m. I never saw either one of them assume the calling posItion, like I normally see. I don't understand why my females are leaving the cage lately. The first few lunas stayed in the cage, like I'm accustomed to them doing. I suppose it's possible that the luna could have been a male, since the combs of a male and a female aren't that different, but the poly couldn't possibly have been a male.

Oh well, I had hoped to raise some poly babies. I don't know how to make a female stay in the cage. Maybe next time I'll keep the door closed and stay up all night waiting for a male. If one shows up, I'll open the door for him! :)

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 4:39PM
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