The following story is submitted to Lower Bucks Source by the Silver Lake Nature Center as part of a developing relationship and sharing agreement.
Every two weeks SLNC will be submitting content about the flora & fauna, events, and/or topical stories highlighting one of Bucks County’s “Jewels” to inform the public of all that SLNC has to offer. Jerry’s Journal will be a part of the sharing agreement and will run from time to time
Jerry’s Journal: Moth Week
On a hot June day last summer a family of four walked through the front door of the Nature Center and approached me eager to have a “nature” question answered. The young girl showed me an image on her Smart Phone of a large green moth they had seen the night before. Being from the Midwest, they had never seen such a pale green moth with a four inch wingspan, and they wondered if I could identify it for them. Of course being a naturalist for over two decades in the Eastern United States, I immediately recognized this fascinating creature as a male Luna Moth.
The Silver Lake Nature Center is a perfect habitat for the Luna Moth, which is only found here in North America. SLNC is home for all of the major host trees that the caterpillar loves to eat, especially the Sweet Gum tree that exists here in abundance. Without this type of tree the Luna Moth Caterpillar may not have enough nourishment during the summer and may not have the protection it needs to survive the long cold winters of this region.
What this family had photographed was a newly emerged male moth that had recently crawled from its winter cocoon that was carefully wrapped in a Sweet Gum leaf camouflaged on the forest floor. This adult moth only has a week to live. In fact, it does not even have the mouth parts to eat anything while it searches for its female counterpart. Flying about at night, it senses the surrounding air with its large feather like antennae searching for the presence of pheromones given off by the female Luna Moth.
The female Luna Moth then searches for a host plant to lay its fertilized eggs. These eggs need to hatch on a plant that the caterpillar would like to eat, perhaps a Sweet Gum tree at Silver Lake Nature Center. She may lay over 500 eggs in time, and in about ten days, small green caterpillars begin to emerge and begin munching on those nutritious Sweet Gum leaves. Every five days the caterpillars get so large they split their skins and emerge with new skin and a much plumper body. After doing this five times over the next three weeks they spin themselves into a cocoon, wrap themselves into a tree leaf and the cycle begins again.
The family thanked me and waved good bye. It is my sincere hope they left with a greater curiosity than they entered with. They certainly had a greater appreciation for the interrelationships that plants and animals have within nature. Hopefully you, the reader, are inspired to ask more questions, and you’re certainly invited to Silver Lake Nature Center to expand your naturalist skills.
Be sure to celebrate national Moth Week during the last week of July every year by looking up all the festivals and events that highlight the amazing world of moths.
Upcoming Events at SLNC
Intro to Kayaking – July 18 @ 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Moonlight Kayaking Excursion– July 18 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm