Chantel Contorines was walking with her daughter, Sofia, when the nine-year-old spotted an unusually large insect lying the ground in a Victoria parking lot.
“I did a double-take because I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said the Victoria resident. Sitting on the ground was a moth the size of her hand, fluttering its wings. “It looked like a tarantula had mated with a moth.”
After quickly snapping a photo, the pair went back to their car outside HomeSense along Cloverdale Avenue and took a closer look. Immediately, they squirmed at the sight of the fuzzy antennae, plump body and large legs.
Royal BC Museum confirmed the duo spotted a polyphemus moth, one of the largest insects in B.C. According to entomology researcher Claudia Copley, it was clearly a male, as the feathery antennae are used to pick up pheromones from females.
“[They’re] not often seen because they are active as adult moths at night,” Copley explained. “Sometimes they turn up at people’s porch light and then are reported to me here at the museum. The wings are beautiful, especially the top view.”
Polyphemus moths are known for the fake eye spots on their wings that can startle predators with their owl-like facade. Most larvae eat foliage from broad-leaved trees and shrubs, including birch, hickory, maple, oak, willow, grape and a handful of rose-type bushes. By the time they become adults, they only mate.
Notably, Copley said these moths are completely harmless.
“As long as it lands on my child and not on me, I’ll be alright,” joked Contorines. “It’s a beautifully ugly creature.”
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