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Hit by a luna moth caterpillar

2013-03-18T20:59:05+00:00

I was working on refinishing a chest of drawers which will be reincarnated as my bathroom vanity. I was trying to sand off a coat of polyurethane which I had applied at darling wife’s behest, and which we had then discovered was a mistake, since it applied a yellowish tinge to the white paint.

I was working under a live oak tree in the backyard. Suddenly something soft and heavy, like a beanbag, struck one of my heads from above. I recoiled as something bright green bounced off of me and onto the ground on the other side of the chest I was working on. A few leaves trickled down from above in its wake.

Cautiously, I leaned over and peeked. Writhing on the ground was the largest luna moth caterpillar (read: the only luna moth caterpillar) I have ever seen face to faces. Luna moths (Actias luna) are considered to be common. But not to me. It was horrible.

True, my natural shape is soft and gelatinous, just like the caterpillar. But this body is programmed to be repulsed by gelatinous things, especially when they strike without warning. I shuddered with revulsion. The thing was nearly the size of a hot dog. It was huge. And it was ravenous. I could tell.

That didn’t stop darling wife, whom I fetched (against my better judgment) because I knew she would be interested to see it. She promptly donned a glove and picked it up, admiring it while it clambered around on her appendage. She made me take pictures, which I did while trying to keep from shuddering and blurring the photograph. I don’t have them here to post, but you can see similar images in the link above.

Luna moth eggs gestate for 8 to 13 days, then the larva (caterpillars) wander around for 25 to 35 days, then they pupate for about 14 days until they hatch as a giant luna moth with a wingspan of more than 100 mm. Huge babies, huge adults. The adult moths live for about a week, mate, lay eggs, and die. They don’t eat at all; they don’t have mouths. All the energy they will expend flying around and mating and laying eggs, comes prepackaged in their bodies when they emerge from their cocoon.

Darling wife saw an adult luna moth a few years ago. She was admiring it when suddenly a bluejay swooped down, grabbed it, took it up to a branch, and proceeded to tear it apart. The beautifully-painted wings wafted down from the branch separately, discarded by the hungry bird. Darling wife was horrified. In hindsight, I think it was a good thing.  Otherwise it would have laid more eggs, to create more larva, which would then have fallen out of the tree to hit me, just like yesterday.

(Shudder.)

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