Aug 21 2011
Earlier this month Tim Vechter found this Polyphemus moth on a tree trunk in the city’s Shadyside neighborhood.
Finding such a huge moth — with a wingspan of 6″ — is always amazing but even more so in the city where we don’t expect to see wildlife.
It probably likes Shadyside’s habitat. Polyphemus don’t eat when they’re moths but as caterpillars they feed on a wide variety of deciduous trees including oak, maple, hickory and beech. Shadyside’s tree-lined streets provide a nice selection of mature host plants.
When Pittsburgh was a smoky city the moths probably weren’t here but all it took was one female to make the leap back to town. The males’ bushy antennae can detect female pheromones from miles away and they’ll fly that far to mate with them.
Polyphemus moths are noticeable because of their huge size and the purplish eyespots on their hind wings. Those two traits gave them their name.
Polyphemus was the one-eyed giant who ate six of Odysseus’ men. He was well known among the Cyclops. His name means “famous.”
(photo by Tim Vechter)