Though growing up butterflies were my thing, once I was exposed to the giant silk moths I fell in love. Living in Rhode Island, we have Hyalophora cecropia, Actias luna, Antheraea polyphemus, Callosamia promethea and Automeris io. Though these species are spectacular it wasn’t until I became exposed to the tropical species where the wow factor really started.
I remember when I was growing up, always wanting to be outside playing and exploring. I also remember waiting patiently at the bottom deck stair, touching the grass so that it was dry so that I didn’t track anything back into the house while I was out. Every few minutes I would run my hand through the grass readying myself to yell to my mother that the grass was finally dry. Once it was, I was nowhere to be seen. I was either in the overgrown field behind the house catching insects or I would be off to other areas in Jamestown that I knew where hot spots for cool insects.
The Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis), though beautiful in its own right, is perhaps better known for its caterpillar, known as the Hickory Horned Devil. These caterpillars get huge, reaching a length of six inches by the time they are ready to pupate. It’s range is the eastern portion of the United States, east of the Great Plains. Unfortunately it has been some time since this spectacular species has been reported in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
In the past, when it comes to tarantulas, I have always said that the genus Brachypelma is my favorite. My second favorite is the genus Aphonopelma, which is made up of over 90 species, most of which are from the United States. They have a similar size to Brachypelmas but tend to be stockier in build and for the most part, have the same disposition and life expectancy. They are also very easy to care for.
For me, seeing butterflies in my yard, or out on a hike is a thrill, especially if there is a lot of them. Growing up, butterfly populations were much higher than they are today, which just adds to the thrill when you see something you haven’t seen in awhile. It’s nice to know that they’re still there.
There have always been field guides to butterflies and moths, my favorite types of insects. My biggest complaint with them though is that they are never complete; they are always missing some important aspect for each species. For the most part, these guides concentrate on the adult butterfly or moth, rarely showing the other three stages of development (egg, larva and pupa). I am guessing that the main reason for this is cost and eventual size of the book. To show all four stages of each species, and then perhaps images of both the male and female, along with text, would create a book that is cost prohibitive.
When it comes to tarantulas, the genus Brachypelma is by far my favorite. The first tarantula I got, in 1976, was Brachypelma harmori and its gentle disposition and long life instantly made it a favorite. As I added more tarantulas to my collection, I found that the Brachypelmas were the ones I enjoyed keeping the most.
I first became aware of the book “The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature” thanks to a piece on NPR. Being a lover of Lepidoptera, I thought this would be an interesting book as it dealt with declining numbers in the butterfly world, a subject that has been on my mind a lot. I wasn’t sure what to expect as some of these books can be over-scientific, making it difficult to read. I am happy to report that this book is written so that everyone can enjoy it.