We've had a mild but drizzly spell here in Maine. The hunting season is well under way so I am wearing orange and sticking to the campground (for the most part) where it is supposed to be safe. I did have a very pleasant walk over in Arrowsic across the Kennebec River from where we live. We can see a lighthouse from the back of our property, and I had an opportunity to see it up close and personal. The property, known as Squirrel Point, is now protected from development, and we hikers have access to a lovely spot on the river. The purpose of the hike was not just to see the lighthouse but also to examine lichens and mosses along the trail. Not only that, but there were several other notable finds. Several low blueberry bushes had blossoms on their leafless stems! I discovered lots of Promethea Moth cocoons clinging to a Cherry Tree that stood near the lighthouse! There were over a dozen, so it is definitely a place to come back to when those large moths are due to emerge in the spring. Meanwhile, they will blow in the wind and all kinds of weather. To the right, you see one of the cocoons hanging from its attachment. This hike to Squirrel Point is one to put on your schedule. There is also an alternate trail to Bald Head, not to be confused with that point of land we see from Head Beach. You can climb down to the shore and fish off the rocks, or even take a dip in the water, that is, if you watch the currents.
Just to refresh your memory, here is a picture of these beautiful Promethea Moths. You will notice the difference in coloration. The one at the top is the male, while the one below is the female. You could also get a clue about their genders by observing the fat abdomen of the female, filled with eggs. These moths are getting ready to mate, their sole aim in life. The female will lay those eggs, once fertilized, and both adult moths will die. These moths emerged in spring after the foliage of the Cherry Tree has unfolded and expanded. Once the caterpillars emerge from the eggs, they will feed upon the cherry leaves. Ironically, I have never found one of these caterpillars. I have a feeling that tree on Squirrel Point will be a good place to look for them during the summer!
If you ever find these cocoons on your walks and are tempted to take them home to watch, be advised that they must be left outside during the winter. You might consider tying the stick to which they are attached to a branch of Cherry in your yard. Come spring, you should check it every day so as not to miss the emergence of these beautiful moths. Let me know if you get a female or male......and how do they find each other?! Moths communicate with pheromones.....a scent that is picked up by their feathery antennae. Too bad we are not equipped with these appendages to make finding them more easily! 11/11/08 Pheromonious Ronnie.