Saturday, November 5, 2016

Buck Moths

     So while waiting in my tree stand for a buck to show up, I noticed quite a few Buck Moths instead. These are quite different from most moths in a couple of ways. First they fly during the day rather than at night. Secondly, they come out during the late Fall when most moths have already completed their adult lives. 
     Buck Moths are called buck moths, some people say, because they come out during the deer rut when bucks are looking for mates. That was indeed true this day, as they were floating around right after the sun warmed the day enough from the frosty night before. Before flying, these moths, like many moths do, tremble and shiver, warming their flight muscles. They can operate in much lower temperatures than the vast majority of other moths. 
     The various species (our local version are Eastern Buck Moths, Hemileuca maia) are actually members of the Saturniidae, the giant silk moths such as Luna and Cecropia moths. Like most of them, the adults don't feed at all. Unlike most, the gregarious caterpillars are covered in stinging hairs. Early on they feed on various oaks, but later can feed on several other deciduous trees. Males are smaller than females, and males have reddish tips to their abdomens as opposed to the black tips of the females.
     When they encounter trouble, they often curl their heads under their body, lift their wings to expose their bright colored hairy bodies, and play dead. They can sit motionless for a good period of time in this position, until the danger hopefully goes away. Some believe they are distasteful to some predators. 
A Buck Moth plays "dead.
     I always love seeing these moths so late in the Fall, a reminder of warmer days. They flutter around in such an obvious fashion, that is until they think their lives are in danger and play dead. 

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