Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pins and Needles 7: Giant Moths and Non-Violent Silk

Hey guys!!!

This just in, we've got another large moth to set and preserve. As you know, Saturniid moths are one of my favourite to work with, not only because their bodies are so big there's like little or no danger of me accidentally damaging one unduly (as has been known to happen with smaller butterflies... the heads keep popping off) but also because these giant silkmoths are living testaments against people who will insist that all moths are drably colored and unnatractive. Some Saturniid moths I've worked with before include the Indian Moon Moth and Antherea Celebensis. This time round it was this wonderful beauty.

Ailanthus Silkmoth (Samia Cynthia male)
This enormous wonder is non other than Samia Cynthia or the Ailanthus Silkmoth, so named for the type of food plants its caterpillars feed on Ailanthus Alitissima or The Tree of Heaven. Agriculturally, the moths are cultivated on the leaves of castor beans and are used in the production of Eri Silk which, unlike traditional silk cannot be spun from the coocoons but must be unravelled and then woven meaning that the adult moths are allowed to emerge before silk is harvested giving this silk its popular nick-name "Non-Violent Silk". Eri silk is extremely durable and is often spun much like cotton or wool.
Just look at those lovely clean cut lines!
Anyway so that makes it about 3 Saturniid moths that I have done so far including the Indian Moon Moth and the Celebensis. Coming up next, 2 lycaenid butterflies wihch have yet to be set plus, an amazing and welcome sight, two caterpillars of the lime swallowtail in the Garden which, at long last, marks the return of the butterfly species. I have taken them in to protect them from the harsh weather and will scour the citrus trees for more tomorrow. For now, thanks for visiting and if anybody knows where I can find naturally occuring passiflora suberosa I'd really like to know.

I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see them bloom for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world~

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