Early Friday evening my homeless pal the Green Guy (who is a friend to all living things) did what he could to save a beautiful polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) that was caught in traffic.
This North American member of the giant silk moth family Saturniidae may have been struck a light blow by a car.
It was certainly disoriented when the Green Guy found it sitting prone in the path of traffic in the eastbound lane of the 1400 block of West Broadway.
When I saw the large tan-furred moth sheltered in my friend’s two hands—so-named after the mythic Greek Cyclops Polyphemus, because of the purple-blue eye spots on each of its two hind wings—the poor thing was shaking like a leaf.
And like a leaf, the stunned moth simply fluttered to the pavement when we tried to coax it into taking flight.
When I gently scooped it up off the sidewalk, it felt dry and fuzzy to the touch. It was nearly weightless as it sat in the palm of my hand vibrating its soft, fringed wings.
Once when we let it go it fluttered up and onto the Green Guy’s neck, which was safe enough but almost by reflex my friend lightly brushed the moth away from his face and it ended up, as it did each time we let it go, in a dangerous place—either on the road or the sidewalk.
At one point I was taking a photo of the moth as it lay on the sidewalk and a passerby stopped to do likewise with his cell phone.
I told the fellow that he was now an accomplice in our rescue attempt and I encouraged him to pick up the moth and help transport it to a place of greater safety.
The moth actually flew from the guy’s hand and perched on a pocket flap of his cargo shorts. Only a few steps later, however, and the moth had made its shaky way back out onto the roadway.
I coaxed it a few feet toward the curb but it just wouldn’t fly out of harm’s way. Finally I gave up and watched it from my window seat in McDonald’s, hoping against hope that all the oncoming traffic would miss it somehow.
Something made me look away for a moment when the traffic lights changed.
When I looked back the moth was gone, having, I believe, finally gotten its wings and its confidence back—just in the nick of time!