Sunday, May 2, 2010

Apartments for Bugs

On the scale of bizarreness from "common housefly" to "outlandish freak of your nightmares," the puriri moth sits somewhere around "imaginative Hollywood creation."  It's the largest moth in New Zealand, with wingspans up to 15 cm/ 6 inches.  Basically, it's the size of a small bird!  Strangely, this gentle giant only lives 2 days.  Its mouth parts don't work, so it doesn't eat.  It lives in its adult stage just long enough to breed.

adult female puriri moth.  photo credit:  Tony Wills, 2007

Even though the adult form of the puriri moth lives for only two days, the caterpillar form can live for up to 5 or 6 years.  The grubs gnaw their way into a tree and form a little burrow where they will sit.  And sit.  And sit.

checking out burrows--occupied and formerly occupied--in a kohekohe tree.  it's like an apartment complex for grubs!

close-up of an occupied burrow in a putaputaweta tree in our backyard.  there's a puriri moth grub waiting in there!

close-up of an unoccupied burrow in a putaputaweta.  the grub has emerged as a moth, but the hole in the tree remains...

eventually, the tree forms a scar over the burrow.

Recently, a scientist caught on camera for the very first time a puriri moth hatching out of its chrysalis.  It's awesome to see its wings unfurling.  The footage is here.  I definitely recommend that you take a look!

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