Polyphemus Moth and Dragonfly

Moth Identification
Location: Oshkosh, WI
February 25, 2012 11:00 pm
Just wanted to say that I am a huge fan and addicted to the website. I’m not a big bug person, I prefer reptiles myself, but as bugs tend to be just as misunderstood I sincerely appreciate the work you do in educating the general public. I have here two mysteries I’d be very thankful if you helped to solve. The first is a picture I took while at work. I work at a large factory, which, unfortunately, is an uninhabitable place in hotter months unless the bay doors are open. This means that creatures often find themselves indoors without a way to get back out again. I fear this dragonfly was one of those creatures, and he was dead while still stuck to the wall. I have been unable to identify him: he is very dusty and I fear this may be a case of Unnecessary Carnage due to him not being discovered and saved sooner. Any ideas?
Later that same night, which was a very strange night full of oversized bugs, I heard my cat freaking out at our sliding glass window. Opening it, I was delighted to see such a huge moth, as I never get the honor. After watching it for a while, I was dismayed at how lethargic it seemed, on such a warm night. I didn’t want this to be another case of a beautiful bug living its last moments in my hands, so I put it somewhere more comfortable and turned off my porch light. In the morning it had gone, and I do not know whether it had reached the end of its life or moved on to better things. I prefer to believe the latter. I /think/ that it may be a Polyphemus Moth but for whatever reason could not find a photo with markings that were exactly what I’d witnessed. Do moths have much variation in color and pattern within the same species? Thanks in advance for any information~!
Pictures are taken in summer, Central Wisconsin. Apologies for the quality.
Signature: Jen

Polyphemus Moth

Dear Jen,
Indeed your moth is a Polyphemus Moth, and she is a lovely specimen.  Polyphemus Moths make scrumptious morsels for many nocturnal predators including skunks, racoons and bats.  We doubt the bats would be discouraged by the Polyphemus Moth’s defense mechanism, to mimic the cyclops Polyphemus when disturbed.  The Polyphemus Moth often rests with its lower wings covered.  Upon being poked, it will quickly reveal one oculus and appear to have been wakened from a sound sleep by an annoyance.  When the second eye is revealed, destroying the cyclopian illusion, the entire illusory head of the imagined threat of a human sized head 
could scare a racoon or skunk, or maybe not, but it does work on birds.  We will attempt to identify your Dragonfly later.  Our first thought or guess would be a female Green Darner.


You guys are great. Thanks so much. Very neat story about the origin of the name, I’m pretty amused by it!

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