I had the pleasure of a full-day rendezvous with a Polyphemus Moth, one of the Giant Silkmoths, earlier this summer. It hung out on my bedroom window screen, arriving with a buzzing fluttering, a thankful counter to the numerous June beetles already hanging about and their incessant cacophony. In the morning, it clung almost lifeless, or maybe almost lifelike, to the screen; throughout the day I checked up on it. Still there. Again, again, still there, still there. Around dusk, I gave another peak expectant by now: its absence surprised me nearly as thoroughly as its arrival had. Like the Masked Robbers, I was steeled, somewhat literally, against the fate of bad photos: the screen was in my way, and I had no inclination to disturb the path of a creature bound to live for a week or so; I wasn’t going to scare away a rare treat of a live, wild visit from a member of Family Saturniidae. After the initial disappointment of its seemingly sudden departure (though it should be noted, it had spent upwards of one-seventh of its adult life in my company), I had the that-was-cool afterglow for a while.
It so happened on a dinner with the maternal unit, the sibling petite unit, and the dragon couple, I found the featured individual/corpse in the parking lot of that night’s Italian restaurant. I’m not into the necrophotography so much, but I do shoot dead bugs if they are interesting as subjects or individuals. And I’m a sucker for Giant Silkmoths like this male (as indicated by the magnificently plumose antennae) Polyphemus moth. Lucky me, I had a brown paper lunch bag. The next day I had a photo shoot from which I can tell you two things for certain: it is much easier to take photographs without a screen between the camera and the subject, and secondly, it’s not as much fun when they’re dead.
I can get pretty close to a dead bug, as you can see; but the echo of life comes from afar. There is a certain beseeching reflected by the corpse: let it go back to dust, the world must go on, let it go, let it go. And so it does, as we all must; so it went into the brush along the edge of my home. It was gone, which brought back the departure of my earlier window visitor. I wondered for a simple second if it was the same individual before remembering the impossibility of a moth’s time to live so long. But it did seem possible that it could be the progeny of that living memory. It was a nice thought. Then I let that go into the brush, too. Hopefully, next time, I will discover one without any screens between us.
(Above: super close-up of antenna segments; below: close-up of eyespot and surrounding scales.)