This morning, as the sun peeped above the canyon wall, I got up — got out of bed — dragged a comb across my head… but actually I didn’t bother to do the latter. I had a visitor, and before I’d even made coffee! I couldn’t harbor ill feelings, as the visitor was a rare female moth, who seemed to be exhausted after laying her eggs.
This moth was clinging to the outside of my screen door. The moth’s wings were intricately patterned, with what looked like an infinity symbol, a “lazy 8”, displayed on each fore-wing:
I gently touched the creature and it flew away:
The moth circled back and landed on my outstretched right-hand index finger. I had my camera nearby, but how to snap a photo when my subject was on the finger which does this? I managed to contort my left hand so that I could reach the shutter button, but it was damned awkward.
I needed a nicely-contrasting backdrop for a more formal photo. I noticed a nearby book, a hardback edition of the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. The dust jacket was black — just the thing! I offered the book to the confused moth and it scampered onto the front cover, then crawled onto the side of the book. It seemed to prefer the slight roughness of the layered pages to the glossy dust-jacket. That was okay — after all, she was a guest!
Hours later, the moth is still on that book:
I talked on the phone with a local moth guru and learned that this species is more common in Mexico, and that Bisbee is near the northern limit of its range. The expert with whom I talked has been collecting and hand-rearing moths here in Southeast Arizona for many years. He said:
“Over a period of thirty years I’ve collected this species just one time, and that one was a male. I never had the opportunity to rear one.”
He asked me if the abdomen of my female moth was plump or skinny. I replied that it definitely wasn’t plump!
“Well, she’s probably already laid her eggs, and she’s ready to die.”
Just for the record, the moth is a Noctuid and rejoices in the Latin name Lichnoptera decora.
I felt privileged to witness the last hours of a mother from the South!