Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Puriri Moth or Pepetuna

Tis the season for the Pepetuna to take flight in the night skies again. I am captivated by this melancholic and beautiful tale.

This bright, emerald green moth is New Zealand's largest with a wing span of up to 15cm. Only found in the North Island, spring and early summer is the time of year they emerge form their chrysalis and take to the night sky to mate and disperse their eggs upon the forest floor.

Once the eggs hatch they feed on the floor vegetation and make their way to the Puriri tree. Here they bore their way into the trunk and remain hidden within the tree, eating the damaged tree tissue, until they are about 10cm in length. Unbelievably, this can take between 5 to 7 years. During this period of time they are a highly sort after snack for the Morepok. A woven silken mesh over the entrance to their tunnel, their only camouflage and flimsy protection from predators.

Once it is big enough (after years of growth in the darkness of the trunk) it comes out from the tree and forms a chrysalis. Having survived all of this, it finally emerges as a giant moth one spring evening. And herein lies the melancholy....It has no mouth...No way of eating or digesting food. Therefore this rare, magnificent, emerald ghost of the night air only lives for one day. Long enough for it to mate and disperse it's eggs on the forest floor to continue the cycle once again.

I first learned of the Pepetuna one bushwalk this time two years ago. There was a small sign explaining it's lifecycle next to a Puriri tree. I was dismayed to think that it's time as such a glorious flying creature was so short lived. How cruel, not to have a mouth.

But then my husband's perspective was this: A worm, alone and in the dark for it's entire life suddenly, unexpectedly finds it's self spectacularly transformed and able to fly for one whole day before the end. Magic!

The tale of the Puriri Moth captivates me still.

(Photo not my own.)

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