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Finding A Bug, Only To Begin My Discovery Of The Tolype Moth

What on earth?

It takes a lot to get me to budge on a hot summer’s day when I’m finally able to sit and sip — my time to relax.

This was particularly worth the effort but, even from a foot away, I still had no idea what I was seeing.

My first quick guess was some kind of bird dropping but no. Too long and the shades of gray, varying from white to black, seemed to have a design of its own. Audubon prefers to ignore it which is too bad because I could only learn its wing span is 32-58 mm (let’s say 1.3-2.3 inches) but nothing about length. A pity.

Some readers of my fiction become exasperated because I tend to not pay much attention to physical appearances.

I know who my people are, where they’ve been and where they’re going and, mostly, exactly what they have to say.

But what do they look like?

That, dear reader, I leave it to you.

This lack of appreciation for detail is a positive failure when it comes to this . . . this bug. Let’s take a look — well, it is a moth, so start with that. Large legs protrude from what has to be the head, legs covered in elaborate “fur” (as is the entire thing).

Bluish gray that fades to white near where the head must be. It doesn’t get any better at the other end. Actually let’s say it’s two fuzzies breeding and let it go at that.

Please — do me (and particularly you) a great big favor and look it up yourself — TOLYPE MOTH. (Tolype velleda) It isn’t even in the dictionary so I can’t tell you how to pronounce the name. (I’m still having trouble spelling it consistently — and right.)

Iron Tree Service that popped up first online: “Tolype moth, also called large Tolype Moth and velleda lappet moth, is a small to medium sized moth in the family Lasiocampidae. Tolype Moth feeds on a bevy of trees and shrubs. Abundant populations can partially or completely defoliate host plants.” One thus presumes they are not interested in appreciating its beauty.

“Butterflies and Moths of North America” has a more lucid description than mine. (Does anyone describe something in scientific nomenclature as “fuzzy”?) Let them try: “Body extremely hairy. Head and front and sides of thorax white, middle of thorax black. Abdomen white to gray. Wings pale to dark gray with white veins and lines. Postmedial line broad, almost straight.” Well, that’s what I said, isn’t it?

They fly only in September and October so I’m giving you a headstart on your search. Nothing says they’re rare but, then again, I am not an apple, ash, birch, elm,oak, plum or “other” tree though, again, it’s the caterpillars that attack the trees. Perhaps these lovelies exist only to breed.

I can tell you they are found from Nova Scotia to central Florida (just talking to my girls about the dog-eating frogs down there) and west to Minnesota (which has enough problems just now). The Butterflies and Moths site does have a page for verified sighting, most recent to oldest, with plenty of photographs of these hairy/fuzzy beauties.

I’ve just seen the one so am not sure how many good pictures I can post. (Same bug though in all of them.) But I must stress — as strongly as I can — that this is absolutely positively worth your getting up from your chair (middle of breakfast?), leaving your coffee for a moment. Heck! Does anyone not have a cellphone at hand nowadays? Type in L-A-R-G-E T-O-L-Y-P-E M-O-T-H.

Susan Crossett has lived in Arkwright for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. Her Reason for Being was published in 2008 with Love in Three Acts following in 2014. Both novels are now available at Lakewood’s Off the Beaten Path bookstore. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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