Earlier this week when I was heading out to a volunteer shift at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit, I noticed something moving at the base of the red oak tree near our mailbox. I got out of my car to see what it was. There was a large moth flapping around on the ground among the remnants of day lily plants. I took several pictures with my phone and continued to Brookside.
When I got there, the staff helped me identify what I’d seen: a Polyphemus moth (read about the species at Maryland Biodiversity Project and Wikipedia). It’s a female because it doesn’t have the feather-looking antennae. It looked very battered and it died sometime after I left. I collected it when I got home and have it in my freezer…trying to decide what to do with it.
The caterpillars require about 60 days to grow enough to make a cocoon to go through the winter…so this is going to be cutting it close for the eggs this female probably laid in our oak tree. Some of the leaves on our oak (a food plant of the caterpillars) are already beginning to turn reddish brown. None of the branches are low enough for me to see any of the caterpillars in action unfortunately. I’ll still be watching the tree hoping to see one as they grow larger.