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- Moths of the Limberlost - 4/25 -


framework usually of twelve hollow tubes or veins that are so connected with the respiratory organs as to be pneumatic. These tubes support double membranes covered above and below with down. At the bases of the wings lie their nerves. The fore-wings each have a heavy rib running from the base and gradually decreasing to the tip. This is called the costa. Its purpose is to bear the brunt of air-pressure in flight. On account of being compelled to fly so much more than the females, the back wings of the males of many species have developed a secondary rib that fits under and supports the front, also causing both to work together with the same impulse to flight. A stiff bunch of bristles serves the same purpose in most females, while some have a lobe extending from the fore-wing. As long as the costa remains unbroken to preserve balance, a moth that has become entangled in bushes or suffered rough treatment from birds can fly with badly damaged wing surfaces.

In some species, notably the Attacine group and all non-feeding, night-flying moths, the legs are short, closely covered with long down of the most delicate colours of the moth, and sometimes decorated with different shades. Luna has beautiful lavender legs, Imperialis yellow, and Regalis red-brown. The day-flying, feeding group have longer, slenderer legs, covered with shorter down, and carry more elaborate markings. This provision is to enable them to cling firmly to flower or twig while feeding, to help them to lift the body higher, and walk dextrously in searching for food. It is also noticeable that these moths have, for their size, comparatively much longer, slenderer wings than the non-feeders, and they can turn them back and fold them together in the fly position, thus enabling them to force their way into nectar-bearing flowers of trumpet shape.

The abdomen is velvet soft to the touch, and divided into rings called segments, these being so joined that this member can be turned and twisted at will. In all cases the last ring contains the sex organs. The large abdomen of the female carries several hundred embryo eggs, and that of the male the seminal fluid.

Much has been written of moths being able to produce odours that attract the sexes, and that are so objectionable as to protect them from birds, mice, and bats. Some believe there are scent glands in a few species under the wing scales. I have critically examined scores of wings as to colour markings, but never noticed or smelled these. On some, tufts of bristlelike hairs can be thrust out, that give a discernible odour; but that this carries any distance or is a large factor in attracting the sexes I do not believe so firmly, after years of practical experience, as I did in the days when I had most of my moth history from books. I have seen this theory confounded so often in practice.

In June of 1911, close six o'clock in the evening, I sat on the front veranda of the Cabin, in company with my family, and watched three moths sail past us and around the corner, before I remembered that on the screen of the music-room window to the east there was a solitary female Promethea moth, that day emerged from a cocoon sent me by Professor Rowley. I hurried to the room and found five male moths fluttering before the screen or clinging to the wild grape and sweet brier vines covering it. I opened the adjoining window and picked up three of the handsomest with my fingers, placing them inside the screen. Then I returned to the veranda.

Moths kept coming. We began studying the conditions. The female had emerged in the diningroom on the west side of the cabin. On account of the intense heat of the afternoon sun, that side of the building had been tightly closed all day. At four o'clock the moth was placed on the east window, because it was sheltered with vines. How soon the first male found her, I do not know. There was quite a stiff evening breeze blowing from the west, so that any odour from her would have been carried on east. We sat there and watched and counted six more moths, every one of which came down wind from the west, flying high, above the treetops in fact, and from the direction of a little tree-filled plot called Studabaker's woods. Some of them we could distinguish almost a block away coming straight toward the Cabin, and sailing around the eastern corner with the precision of hounds on a hot trail. How they knew, the Almighty knows; I do not pretend to; but that there was odour distilled by that one female, practically imperceptible to us (she merely smelled like a moth), yet of such strength as to penetrate screen, vines, and roses and reach her kind a block away, against considerable breeze, I never shall believe.

The fact is, that moths smell like other moths of the same species, and within a reasonable radius they undoubtedly attract each other. In the same manner birds carry a birdlike odour, and snakes, frogs, fish, bees, and all animals have a scent peculiar to themselves. No dog mistakes the odour of a cat for that of another dog. A cow does not follow the scent of horses to find other cattle. No moth hunts a dragon-fly, a butterfly, or in my experience, even a moth of another species in its search for a mate. How male moths work the miracles I have seen them accomplish in locating females, I cannot explain. As the result of acts we see them perform, we credit some forms of life with much keener scent than others, and many with having the power more highly developed than people. The only standard by which we can determine the effect that the odour of one insect, bird, or animal has upon another is by the effect it has upon us. That a male moth can smell a female a block away, against the wind, when I can detect only a faint musky odour within a foot of her, I do not credit.

Primarily the business of moths is to meet, mate, and deposit eggs that will produce more moths. This is all of life with those that do not take food. That they add the completing touch and most beautiful form of life to a few exquisite May and June nights is their extra good fortune, not any part of the affair of living. With moths that feed and live after reproduction, mating and egg placing comes first. In all cases the rule is much, the same. The moths emerge, dry their wings, and reach full development the first day. In freedom, the females being weighted with eggs seldom attempt to fly. They remain where they are, thrust out the egg placer from the last ring of the abdomen and wait. By ten o'clock the males, in such numbers as to amaze a watcher, find them and remain until almost morning. Broad antennae, slenderer abdomen, and the claspers used in holding the female in mating, smaller wings and more brilliant markings are the signs by which the male can be told in most cases. In several of the Attacine group, notably Promethea, the male and female differ widely in markings and colour. Among the other non-feeders the difference is slight. The male Regalis has the longest, most gracefully curved abdomen and the most prominent claspers of any moth I ever examined; but the antennae are so delicate and closely pressed against the face most of the time as to be concealed until especially examined. I have noticed that among the moths bearing large, outstanding antennae, the claspers are less prominent than with those having small, inconspicuous head parts. A fine pair of antennae, carried forward as by a big, fully developed Cecropia, are as ornamental to the moth as splendidly branching antlers are to the head of a deer.

The female now begins egg placing. This requires time, as one of these big night moths deposits from three hundred and fifty to over six hundred eggs. These lie in embryonic state in the abdomen of the female. At her maturity they ripen rapidly. When they are ready to deposit, she is forced to place them whether she has mated or not. In case a mate has found her, a small pouch near the end of her abdomen is filled with a fluid that touches each egg in passing and renders it fertile. The eggs differ with species and are placed according to family characteristics. They may be pure white, pearl-coloured, grey, greenish, or yellow. There are round, flat, and oblong eggs. These are placed differently in freedom and captivity. A moth in a natural location glues her eggs, often one at a time, on the under or upper side of leaves. Sometimes she dots several in a row, or again makes a number of rows, like a little beaded mat. One authority I have consulted states that "The eggs are always laid by the female in a state of freedom upon the food-plant which is most congenial to the larvae." This has not 'always' been the case in my experience. I have found eggs on stone walls, boards, fences, outbuildings, and on the bark of dead trees and stumps as well as living, even on the ground. This also, has been the case with the women who wrote "Caterpillars and their Moths", the most invaluable work on the subject ever compiled.

A captive moth feels and resents her limitations. I cannot force one to mate even in a large box. I must free her in the conservatory, in a room, or put her on an outside window br door screen. Under these conditions one will place her eggs more nearly as in freedom; but this makes them difficult to find and preserve. Placed in a box and forced by nature to deposit her eggs, as a rule, she will remain in one spot and heap them up until she is forced to move to make room for more. One big female Regalis of the last chapter of this book placed them a thimbleful at a time; but the little caterpillars came rolling out in all directions when due. In my experience, they finish in four or five nights, although I have read of moths having lived and placed eggs for ten, some species being said to have deposited over a thousand. Seven days is usually the limit of life for these big night moths with me; they merely grow inactive and sluggish until the very last, when almost invariably they are seized with a muscular attack, in which they beat themselves to rags and fringes, as if resisting the overcoming lethargy. It is because of this that I have been forced to resort to the gasoline bottle a few times when I found it impossible to paint from the living moth; but I do not put one to sleep unless I am compelled.

I never have been able to induce a female to mate after confinement had driven her to begin depositing her eggs, not even under the most favourable conditions I could offer, although others record that they have been so fortunate. Repeatedly I have experimented with males and females of different species, but with no success. I have not seem a polygamous moth; but have read of experiences with them.

Sometimes the eggs have a smooth surface, again they may be ridged or like hammered brass or silver. The shells are very thin and break easily. At one side a place can be detected where the fertilizing fluid enters. The coming caterpillar begins to develop at once and emerges in from six to thirty days, with the exception of a few eggs placed in the fall that produce during the following spring. The length of the egg period differs with species and somewhat with the same moths, according to suitable or unfavourable placing, and climatic conditions. Do not accept the experience of any one if you have eggs you very much desire to be productive of the caterpillars of rare moths; after six days take a peep every day if you would be on the safe side. With many species the shells are transparent, and for the last few days before emergence the growth of the little caterpillars can be watched through them.

When matured they break or eat a hole in their shells and emerge,


Moths of the Limberlost - 4/25

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