Newly Emerged Sheep Moth at Lookout Mountain

A recently hatched elegant sheep moth pumping up its wings.

Twenty minutes later, its wings are full size, but it may be a little while longer before it is ready to fly.

Shaggy fleabane (Erigeron pumilis)

Last Sunday (July 10), some NARGS members went up to Lookout Mountain in Douglas County for our annual campout weekend. On the way up to the summit, we stopped at an open slope by MP 12 along Lookout Mountain Rd 2703. This is the site of the beautiful Erigeron pumilis, not found elsewhere on the west side of the Cascades. We were in luck—it was in perfect bloom. But even luckier, Kelley Leonard spotted something crawling around in the manzanitas. It turned out to be an elegant sheep moth (Hemileuca eglanterina) that had just emerged from its cocoon. Its abdomen was quite large, but its wings were very small. I’d watched butterflies that I’d raised emerge from their chrysalis, pump up their wings, and then eventually fly off. It was always a very moving experience, especially watching them go off on their own after weeks of feeding them as caterpillars. I’d never seen this in the wild, however. The freshly minted moth finally settled on a spot to hang from. We sat transfixed for 20 minutes watching as its wings slowly grew larger and its abdomen shrunk as it sent the fluid into its wings, occasionally shaking back and forth, perhaps helping things flow. With the butterflies I raised, that fluid would eventually be pumped back out of the wings and excreted. We didn’t have all day, so, unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay to see that or the more exciting moment when it first got to test its wings. For an unusual photo of a sheep moth being courted by a checkerspot, also taken on Lookout Mountain a few years ago, check out the butterfly photo gallery (click here).

Skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata) and sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) in a sea of bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata). If this scene looks familiar, it’s because the banner at the top of my website was created from a photo taken here a few years ago.

Up on the summit of Lookout Mountain, the flowers were really beautiful. There were lots of brightly colored Balsamorhiza deltoidea, Castilleja pruinosa, and Ipomopsis aggregata, Penstemon rupicola and P. deustus (smallest ones I’ve ever seen), darling Calochortus elegans, and early Eriogonum umbellatum. Everything was held together by a soft blue background of Gilia capitata. Several people commented on the large “buds” on all the rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa). This silvery green shrub is the last plant to bloom up here, usually sending up its yellow flowers in September. Clearly, it was too early for buds. We cracked one open, and, sure enough, they were galls with little larvae inside. Whoever this is, they’ve attacked almost every shrub up there. After wandering around photographing all the lovely flowers against the expansive view of the mountains, it was time for everyone to head home, but I was so glad to share this overlooked but special spot with other flower lovers.

3 Responses to “Newly Emerged Sheep Moth at Lookout Mountain”

  • Kris:

    Hi Tanya, that moth is gorgeous, and the scene with the skyrocket and other flowers is wonderful. You sure do know how to find amazing things. :)


  • Greg:

    Great work with the sheep moth sequence! The Erigeron is beautiful. I shall have to visit “this” Lookout Mountain at some point (I have been to the other two near Mount Hood and in the Ochocos, respectively).

  • Hi Greg,

    I haven’t been to the Lookout Mountains near Mt. Hood, but I love the one in the Ochocos. It’s a fantastic site to look for butterflies as well as flowers.

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