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Magical Moths: Last Chance

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With about 13,000 known species, North American moths come in a range of sizes, from members of the giant silkworm family with six-inch-wingspans to numerous species of smaller “micromoths.” But in Winged Tapestries: Moths at Large, a thrilling photographic exhibition open for just one more month at the Museum, the featured moths—no matter how large or small in nature—are magnified to sumptuous dimensions.

Polyphemus moth
Polyphemus moths (Antheraea polyphemus), like other members of the giant silkworm family, have wingspans of up to 6 inches.
© Jim des Rivières

With prints as large as 5 feet across, says David Grimaldi, curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology, “These images provide a moth's-eye view in stunning detail. You can see individual scales on the wings, and how the different colors of scales form a mosaic of patterns." The giant prints of the moths, which were carefully scanned on a velvety black background, reveal details invisible to the naked eye.

The pale white-yellow, one-inch wingspan beggar moth (Eubaphe mendica) may not look like much at first glance. Here it is at about actual-size.

But when magnified in a print 63 inches high and 45 inches wide, its sumptuously gorgeous details are laid bare. 

Beggar moth Jim des Rivieres
Beggar moth (Eubaphe mendica), as seen in Winged Tapestries: Moths at Large
© Jim des Rivières

At just one-inch-long and not-so-colorful, the white-dotted prominent (Nadata gibbosa) might be easy to overlook at first glance. But in a 45-inch-wide print, its astonishing antennae, elegant tawny stripes, and snowflake-white dots deserve a long look.

White-dotted prominent Jim des Rivieres
White-dotted prominent moth, in Winged Tapestries: Moths at Large. 
© Jim des Rivières

 Here it is, approximately actual size.

White-dotted prominent (life-size)
Via Wikimedia Commons/Tom Peterson/Fermilab

Photographed by Canadian artist Jim des Rivières, the more than 30 moths in the exhibition are quite common, and all are native to eastern North America. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to look more closely, in real life, at these mysterious, deceptively subtle night visitors.

Winged Tapestries: Moths at Large closes Sunday, September 29, 2013. The exhibition is free with Museum admission.


Winged Tapestries: Moths at Large, featuring the art of Jim des Rivières, is produced by the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada. 

The presentation of Winged Tapestries: Moths at Large at the American Museum of Natural History is made possible by the generosity of 
the Arthur Ross Foundation.