Ceanothus Silkmoth Essay
HYALOPHORA EURYALUS (BOISDUVAL, 1855)
It’s spring and the beautiful Ceanothus Silkmoth is out and about…
Native South Americans integrated various Lepidoptera into their mythologies. To the Goajiro of Columbia, if a particular large, white moth is found in a bedroom it must not be mistreated for it is the spirit of an ancestor come to visit. If the moth becomes troublesome, it can be removed only with the greatest care or the spirit may take vengeance. Among the Aymara of Bolivia, a certain rare nocturnal moth was thought to be an omen of death.
Themes Found In Butterfly and Moth Symbolism
The Sexes: Female, Way to a New Dress, Homosexuality, Temptation, Seduction, Sensuality
Weather: Rain, Omen of Cold Weather, Omen of Sunny or Mild Weather, Omen of Thunderstorms Supernatural Beings, Creator: Divine Inspiration, Witches, Fairies, Guardian of Tobacco, Bridge, Existence of Creator, Reincarnated Being, Antidote Giver, Spokesman for Raven, Indian Watcher, Dream Carrier, God of Rain Representative
Soul: Resurrection, Soul of Man, Soul of Witches
Harvest: Good Harvest, Fertility of the Earth States of Being: Omen of Marriage, Omen of Birth, Death, Omen of Death, Youth, Old Age, Life
Time: Day, Night, Spring, Omen of Spring, Summer, Omen of Summer, Winter
Powers: Flight, Spasmodic Flight, Protection, Measuring Characteristics, Conditions,
Qualities: Good Luck, Freedom, Homosexuality, Bad Luck, Nervousness, Change, Inconstancy, Heavenly, Fairy Tale, Social Butterfly, Goals Beyond Reach, Aloofness, Temptation, Foolishness, Insanity, Speed, Sensuality, Self-Destruction, Evil, Good Health, Omen of Sickness, Impermanence, Fragility, Humor, Introversion, Shyness, Being Poor, Good Aim With a Gun, Cheat in Gambling
Miscellaneous Items: Flame, Knowledge, Morning Star, Bridge, Sleep, Thought, Creative Thought, Release of Thought
This family includes some of the largest and most spectacular moths in the world, particularly the tropical rain forest. The valuable textile silk comes from the larvae of a different moth family, the Bombycidae. The ceanothus silk moth lives in the nearby chaparral-covered hillsides above Santa Barbara and Ojai, California.
The larva (caterpillar) feeds primarily on species of California lilac (Ceanothus). Two species are native to the nearby hills, coast blue lilac (C. tomentosus ssp. olivaceous) and coast white lilac (C. verrucosus). Both of these species grow around the SB / Ojai areas.
The larvae are also known to feed on other native shrubs, including laurel sumac (Malosma laurina), mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus minutiflorus) and manzanita (Arctostaphylos) species. At maturity in the fall they grow to a length of up to four inches (10 cm) and resemble fat, light green sausages with stubby legs. The back (dorsal) side is decorated with yellowish or reddish projections (tubercles). After feeding all summer, the larva spins a flask-shaped, silken cocoon that hangs from the host shrub.
Within its cocoon, the larva transforms into a pupa. During the fall and winter months the pupa gradually undergoes metamorphosis and by late winter or early spring, an adult moth emerges from its pupal case. This is a large moth with a wing span of over five inches (13 cm).
As an adult, its primary purpose is to find a member of the opposite sex and hopefully copulate. Females emit a chemical scent (pheromone) that attracts a male suitor.
Adult moths have atrophied mouthparts and do not feed. They soon die after completing their sole function which is to mate and lay eggs, thus passing on their DNA and perpetuating the species.
Hopefully, sufficient native chaparral will remain in this rapidly growing region of southern California to maintain a viable population of these beautiful insects.
Identification: Wings are red to brownish red. Areas outside the narrow white postmedian lines are also red to brownish red, but may have black overscaling. Cell spot on the hindwing is shaped like an elongated comma and touches or breaks the postmedian line.
Life Cycle: Eggs are laid singly or in small groups. Caterpillar large (about 3″ long at maturity) and plump; green with small number of blunt, yellow spines along top of body. Cocoon is a large oval structure, usually slightly pointed at one end. Host plants are very varied and include mountain lilacs (Ceanothus), for which they are named, as well as Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), cherries, birches, willows, and many others. Females glue eggs singly or in clumps on leaves of the host plant. The eggs hatch in 9-14 days and the caterpillars eat leaves. The cocoon is spun in the outer part of the host plant and is attached to a twig by only one-half its length.
Wing Span: 3.5 – 5 inches (8.9 – 12.7 cm).
Flight One brood: January – early July, with flight progressively later at higher latitudes and elevations.
Caterpillar Hosts: A wide range of plants including buckbrush (Ceanothus), manzanita (Arctostaphylos), gooseberry (Ribes), madrone (Arbutus menziesii), willows (Salix), alder (Alnus), and mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides).
Adult Food: Adults do not feed.
Habitat: A wide variety of habitats including coastal areas, chaparral, and conifer forests.
Range: British Columbia east to western Montana, south through Washington, western Oregon, and California to Baja California Sur…and Ojai, California.