Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Mating of the Moths



Out of seeming nowhere falls a pair of moths to the grass in front of the swing, stuck together tail to tail and spiraling to the ground like a maple tree's helicopter seed pod. They are tiny white moths, about a half inch long from head to tail end, with only a one-inch wingspan. Had I not been listening to and musing about the wrensong, I would have missed them.

I squat close to watch. The mating there observed was no less than astounding. A black-tipped tan colored protrusion the size and shape of a grain of rice emerged slowly from the tail of the male, then spread out like a fan to surround and clamp down around the tail end of the female, who is upside down and looking stunned. The black tip has fanned into a tiny furry fringe that now surges and throbs. Every few seconds she tries to pull away on a blade of grass. He clamps tighter, his own feet holding tight to his grass blade as she pulls toward hers. The blades strain under their tug of war. After ten minutes of this I think I have time to get camera. When I return, the rice grain is back inside the male, but their tails are still stuck fast, and they are still tugging of war.

An hour later they are still there, not moving. This was no chance slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am crashing in the air like the yellow butterflies I've observed. Did the moths die in the act? dkm

p.s. Ninety minutes after the hour later, I went out to see if they were still in the grass---to see if they were dead or alive. I'll never know the answer, because they were gone. I can think of three possible outcomes. 1) They did not die, but eventually separated and flew off to carry on about the business of adult mothery---she to lay eggs and die, he to find another mate. 2) They did die and were eaten by a bird. 3) Exhausted from their coupling, they did not die, but rested long enough to be found and devoured by a bird. There is not a breath of wind. They could not have been blown away. dkm

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