Once people in America took many of these easily reared silk moths, in which the caterpillars spin beautiful silken cocoons, and tried to use them to raise silk for sale. It was possible to produce fine silk all right, but they found that the cost of American labor was so much higher than Oriental labor for producing this silk that it was impossible to compete. So the attempt was abandoned.
Wherever streams come down out of mountains, wherever the willows grow, but particularly in the western parts of North America, the Cerise Sphinx wings its way in the dusk of evening or early morning to the flowers of the evening primrose and other flowers with deep throats. It uncurls its long, long tongue, longer by far than that of a bee or wasp or even a butterfly, and finds precious nectar in the heart of the deepest flower. Sometimes it visits gardens in a city, and then you may see it shoot around the corner of the building, fast as a hummingbird, hover above a flower with buzzing wings and dip down with its tongue for the delightful sweets.
The Syneda Moth, like other Noctuids or nocturnal moths, can see in the dark. When our eyes cannon penetrate the black shadow, this beautiful little moth flutters through the mysterious night with perfect ease, detecting other moths of its own kind and swirling with them in a ghostly dance rarely seen by the eyes of man. But other eyes do see the moths dancing, eyes in which the irises can spread as wide as if curtains were pulled back from a window until every tiny atom of light can enter. Squart poor-wills, birds that appear like the dead leaves of the forest floor, crouch to the ground watching the approaching moths. They are the tigers of the moth world. Suddenly one poor-will launches itself in the air, its wide and hair-lined mouth gaping wide like a great trap, its movement silent as a springing panther. Into that wide cavern three or four moths fall and are trapped with a single snap of the beak. Others, frightened by the fierce attack, drop quickly into the brush, hiding their bright hind wings by folding over them the duller front ones.
This huge tiger moth, with a wingspread of sometimes two and a half inches or more is a lover of the cold north, for it is found everywhere in northern Europe, Northern Asia, and northern America. It is subject to considerable size and color variation due to different climates in the northern lands. Some places it has a wings spread of only about two inches and the hind wings are pink with black spots instead of yellow, while the forewings have much darker brown markings than those shown in the picture. This second form would be more likely to live in the dark woods where such darker colors would give it better camouflage whereas the first and larger form would live in more open places where lighter form would live in more open places where lighter colors are helpful.
Out of warm and velvet darkness this great brown gem of the woods may flutter to your window. It comes from a mysterious world to startle civilized man with a realization of hidden beauty in the night. The tawny wings, so like the soft fur of a great cat, the bluish-gray streaks on the wings, and the large round blue-rimmed eyes of the hind wings mark this species from other Saturniids. The subspecies oculea Neum, is a large form with a diffuse black ring around the ocelli (eye-spots) in the fore-wings. The form olivaceae Ckl. has an olive-brown ground color.