Thursday, May 18, 2006

revenge of Mothra

So, a couple of days ago I was over at Whip Up and I read about this guy, and it blew me away. Not only does he hand-weave beautiful things out of silk, but he raises his own silk moths and does all the reeling/spinning and dyeing. His site has amazing pictures of the whole process.
I haven't even managed to get around to spinning any of Isadora's easy-to-access fibers, so I'm quite sure I won't be doing any silk harvesting. However, looking at his site did inspire me to post about the moth-rearing project that's going on chez Petula.

It started a couple of winters ago when Davis found a cocoon lying on the ground and brought it home (it looked kind of like a cross between a dried out husk and poop to me, so I think it's pretty impressive that he knew what it was). He put it in one of the flower pots inside and would put a little water on it as he watered the plant. It took many months, but the cocoon finally opened and a moth like the ones in the picture on the right came out (the picture of ours is on a slide and I'm too lazy to hunt it down and fire up the scanner, so you'll have to take my word on it that he looked just like this). He was a Cecropia moth, and we, of course, named him Mothra. Once they've hatched and become all moth-y these guys only have about a week to live. They don't have mouths, so they don't eat - they pretty much are only there to mate. Since Mothra was in a single moth home he pretty much went berserk hurling himself at the windows trying to get out and find a little loving, so we set him free.
We've had quite a fondness for the cool kinds of moths ever since (not pantry-moths or sweater-eating-moths).

For his birthday last year I got him some antique hand-colored lithographs of moths and caterpillars. Here's one of them(check out the caterpillars!) ------->
He mentioned that he had also long wanted a hand-colored print of luna moths, so I went on the lookout for one of those for his Christmas present a little while later. Turns out that those are pretty hard to come by, but while I was searching I came across an ebay auction for a live luna moth cocoon. It had never occurred to me that you could just go online and buy cocoons - a whole new world suddenly opened for me.
We had learned our lesson about solo moths, so I knew we were going to need several if we got any at all. After some research, I purchased 6 Luna actias cocoons and 6 Antheraea polyphemus cocoons through Bill Oehlke who was incredibly helpful (check out the pictures on his site!).

Now the next dilemma was how to wrap a dozen moth cocoons for Christmas. They're not the most attractive of gifts so it took a bit of thinking. I finally decided to do them up as sort of a Victorian-era scientific display/vivarium. I don't know how true I was to the time period, but I thought it came out rather nice looking, all things considered.
Davis definitely didn't know what it was before he opened it! (or even for a while afterwards - hee)

The plan is to hatch the moths, let the moths fly around, then mate and lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch (assuming all goes well up to now), we'll raise the caterpillars, they'll make cocoons, and it starts all over (either in captivity or outside). The caterpillars are extremely picky about what leaves they'll eat, so it's important to time all of this with when their food will be available. The cocoons have spent the last couple months in the produce drawer of our fridge (hey, that's where we were told to keep them!), and Davis just took the polyphemus ones out about a week and a half ago. They're not too impressive to look at just yet. Hopefully things will progress as planned and I'll be able to update you with more impressive pictures in the future.


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