Last fall we collected polyphemous moth caterpillars from the Knockout roses around our office complex. It was late in the year, so the huge green caterpillars all pupated and the cocoons spent the winter in our office. They were tucked away on a shelf, so we were taken by surprise one day to find one hatched! The first was a male, who we released. A few days later a female hatched. These moths only live as adults for a few days, in which time they must find a mate and lay eggs. They don’t even eat! The females stay in one place and release a pheromone to ‘call’ a mate. The males use their larger antenna to sense the pheromone, even from miles away, and locate the female. This means that (supposedly) you can keep a female in a container outside, she will attract a mate, and then lay lots of eggs that will hatch! So we tried it with no results. After day 3 we release our moth.
On May 1st, another female hatched, so we tried again.
And it worked! She ‘called’ a mate. Note the huge antenna on the photo below.
After visiting several schools and Earth Day the moth died, leaving about 100 eggs to hatch!