Moth emerges from garage, lives to tell about it

empty cocoon When John was trimming the red twig dogwood shrubs earlier this season, he found a cocoon clinging to one of the newly pruned branches.

The cocoon looked like a tightly wrapped bunch of leaves and it had some weight to it, too.

He left the cocoon, still attached to its branch on the patio table for me to find. To keep it from getting soaked in the daily deluges we experienced throughout May, I moved the cocoon and branch into the garage and left it on my workbench.

Then I promptly forgot about it.

That is until one day last week when he called me outside to see a moth that was lying on the ground.

“I was in the garage and felt something fluttering at my feet,” he said. “I saw this moth and moved it outside. I hope it’s okay.”

“It looks like it’s drying its wings,” I said. Then I took a few pictures and went back inside the house.

When I checked a few minutes later, the moth was gone.

Later that evening we were talking about what a beautiful moth we saw and started looking for it in a Field Guide to Insects and Spiders to see if we could identify it.

“I wonder how that moth got in the garage in the first place,” John said.

That’s when it hit me: that must’ve been the moth from the garage cocoon!

We both ran to the workbench and I found the cocoon still there, but it was empty. The moth had emerged from its cocoon in the garage and was lucky John saw it and helped it get outside.

Polyphemus mothHe saved that Polyphemus moth’s life twice — once when he saved the cocoon and once when helped get it to the great outdoors.

We learned the caterpillar that spun the tough, egg-shaped cocoon was big and bright green with yellow bands and red and silver tubercles (small knoblike bumps).

Apparently these caterpillars like deciduous forests, but somehow this guy ended up in my garden.

The beautiful moth that emerged was large, with a 4-5 inch wingspan. It had fuzzy antennae, ruffly edges to its wings and gorgeous eyespots.

In fact, it’s the eyespots on its hind wings that helped the moth gain its name, as in Polyphemus, the giant cyclops of Greek myths.

These moths typically take flight in July, but perhaps because of the extra warmth from the garage this Polyphemus moth emerged sooner than he expected. To the great surprise of us all.


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