Those who read the ‘Grubbing in the Garden’ post a few weeks back will know that Roo found a chrysalis whilst helping me do the weeding.
As a huge fan of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, Roo is genuinely fascinated by the life-cycle of a crawling caterpillar and its metamorphosis into a winged beauty! To bring this life-cycle out of the book and into the real world for her, we decided to foster the chrysalis so that Roo could witness this rather miraculous natural event for herself.
For a two year old, Roo has been very patient. After the initial excitement of finding the chrysalis and installing it in a sawn off bottom of a squash bottom, things got a little less exciting. For the first day or two, the chrysalis would wriggle about every now and then but that was about as much action as we got. Roo wanted to pick leaves for the chrysalis and was a bit disappointed that the now stationary brown grub didn’t show much interest…When the daily progress inspection was over, she would take to creating caterpillar fun elsewhere instead. Bath times became a long drawn out process as my little caterpillar insisted on crawling into her towel ‘cocoon’ on the bath mat every night to hide before emerging and flapping her damp towel around the house completely starkers!
Last weekend though, the towel was discarded and the old squash bottle became once again the focus of her nose squashed tightly against its transparent plastic side. Our caterpillar had finally emerged! Cocoon discarded to one side, half way up the squash bottle was a rather drab looking moth with a colourful underskirt. It was easy to see why the soil was a good place for its cocoon – it’s brown wings made it blend in beautifully! Closer inspection also showed up its otherwise underwhelming top wings to be an intricate tapestry of lines, zig zags, spots and shades. Not so boring after-all!
Roo helped me to look our new moth up and we soon discovered it was a Large Yellow Underwing – its bright yellow underskirt a give-away. The Large Yellow Underwing is one of the most abundant of the UK’s larger moths and is very common in the South in the summer months. The yellow underskirt is displayed when it feels threatened in an attempt to startle away predators.
After popping a piece of crumpled up kitchen roll soaked in sugar water into the bottle for the moth, we observed our flying friend for a while before finally letting it go. There were no tears and fortunately no hungry birds around either (see my previous post for my own childhood moth releasing trauma)! Roo used a stick to entice onto and then deposited the moth onto a lavender bush, where it finally found its wings and headed for the sky. It must be funny for a creature that has been landlocked in its previous form to suddenly take off into a whole new element – I envied it a little!
So there we go – our chrysalis turned out to be a moth and Roo is now a little wiser about one more of our garden companions. Not that there is a dull moment – the Great British Bee Count has come just in time to take over her attention and start a whole new chapter in her outdoor education!