Saturday, July 20, 2013

It's Hatched!

Eight days ago, a regal moth laid her egg on my hand.  We brought it in and put it in a jar.  We looked it up to find out how long it would be until it hatched, and then what it would eat.  The experts said the egg would hatch in seven to ten days.  

Yesterday was day seven.  The egg had a dark spot on it.  I went out and grabbed a hickory leaf and we placed leaf and egg into a larger container.

This morning I came in about 10:00.  The egg was all black.  I looked at it again about 12:30 - the egg was empty.


It had hatched!  Over on another leaflet, there was the baby hickory horn devil!  And what a baby it is - check it out:

  Look at all those spines and things! 

And here it is with my finger in the background...just to give you an idea of scale.  It is maybe 6mm long.

If you take your motion sickness tablets, you can watch the video of it's first steps in the sunshine:

It hasn't taken even a tiny nibble from the leaf we gave it.  So we added a fresher leaf and a leaf of another hickory species.  We don't know which one it will prefer, but whatever it first snacks on, that will be the one we will have to keep feeding it.

 I will keep posting the progress of our little friend, either here or on the Dahlem blog:  Dirt Time at Dahlem.

Turk's Cap Lily

"The Turk's cap lilies are blooming," my co-worker said early this week.  I had been out on the trails on Sunday, and had not seen any, but apparently by Monday they were there.  So, I had to go out as soon as I had a few spare moments to get some photos; this was a new flower for my life list, after all.

Luckily, there were three in bloom only a short distance down our trails.  It's been ridiculously hot and humid this week, so being outside has not been high on my list of desirable things to do.

So I hiked out the trail, past the campers, across the bridge, and there they were.  I was surprised at how small the flowers were.  The plants stood 2.5 feet tall (although according to the literature they can get 6-7 feet tall), but the flowers were each smaller than my fist.  I'd say that they are maybe three inches across.  

The strongly recurved petals are the source of the plant's name.  The person who named it was apparently reminded of a turban.  There are more than one species of lily called the Turk's cap, and the ones we have in this part of the country are Lilium superbum. We also have Michigan lilies (L. michiganense), which look quite similar (I have yet to see one of these, too).  Apparently the best way to tell the two apart is to look down the throat of the lily.  If there is a distinct "green star" on the inside, it is a Turk's cap.  No star...Michigan.  The flowers I photographed are pretty tightly closed in the center, so we can't use the photos to look for this trait.  The anthers of the Michigan lily are also never more than half an  inch long, whereas those of the Turk's cap are generally over half and inch.  I will have to go back out and take another gander...just to be sure.

Apparently the roots are edible and once formed a part of the diet of local natives.  Many native insects and even birds (hummingbirds) will sip nectar from these flame-colored beauties.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Regal Moth

Camp was just winding up and the camp director pointed out to me "there's a moth flopping on the ground."  And sure enough, there it was - a regal moth.

 Regal moths are in the silk moth clan - note the very large furry body (this photo is not is from Dave Smith's blog "ylmb25").  How large is it?  Well the wing span is larger than my hand, and the body was as big as my thumb (I have chubby thumbs).  

Well, of course, I had to go and pick it up.  It was fluttering and flapping, but all that effort was not resulting in any flying.  I figured it must be injured, so I placed my hand in front of it and up it crawled.

Poor thing was missing it's left front foot (which I later discovered was recent, because the camp director had taken its photo earlier and it was fully footed).  Well, it scrambled and fluttered and refused to sit still on my hand.  I had no camera with me, so I couldn't get any pics of my own.  It climbed on my shirt, then back on my hand, and while "sitting" there in a complete state of agitation, it left a small white blob on my hand.


Now, normally, you'd be thinking "oooo - it poo'd on my hand," right?  But no - it's an egg!  I had a gravid female!  

She fluttered some more and then, pfffttt, suddenly she was airborn!  Up she went to the edge of the pavilion roof, and dropped another egg.  Then she fluttered up to a hickory tree and we can only presume she laid a few more eggs on the undersides of a few leaves.  And then she was off again, like a very ungainly bird, flapping across the trail and into the tangle.

I've brought the egg inside - we are going to see if we can raise it.  But how long will it be before it hatches?  And what will it eat?  Research!!!

The regal moth, aka the Royal Walnut Moth (Citheronia regalis), is the largest of the silk moths, going by mass (think weight), in North America.   You many know it better in its larval form:  the hickory horn devil (read my post about these here).   They lay their eggs in groups of one to four on the undersides of preferred host plant leaves, like hickories and walnuts (being neither of these, it must just be she had to "go" while in my hand and I got a deposit).  In 7 to 10 days we can expect the egg to hatch...and then we've got to feed it.

Stay tuned...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dark Skies

One of the things that I miss since moving to Michigan is the star-soaked night sky. Back in Newcomb I could go out any night that was not completely socked in by clouds and see millions upon millions of stars. I couldn't hold up a hair and not have it touch stars. Here, when I go out at night, I can hold up my hand and move it across vast areas of sky and not hit a single star. People here say how lucky I am to live where I live because I'm "out in the country" and get to see so many stars. They have no idea.

I found this video today from Yosemite - perhaps it'll give you a taste of what I have lost.