Metamorphosis

Is has now been some 4 months since I left work the Butterfly House, although it now feels a lifetime ago. Daily life has changed changed considerably and unexpectedly for all of us since then in the wake of the devastating coronavirus pandemic. Despite the strange and uncertain times we have found ourselves in, life continues to move forward. As the days, weeks and months have dragged on an atlas moth caterpillar has been busy metamorphosing within a protective cocoon.

Atlas moth cocoon – constructed with nothing but silk and vegetation

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On the hottest day of the year a small crumpled moth broke finally free of it’s cocoon, unrecognisable from the white caterpillar which had concealed itself inside many months ago.

Caterpillars at various stages of development, known as instars

The caterpillars grow rapidly, feeding voraciously on a diet of privet leaves

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Unfortunately I missed the exact moment the moth emerged (known as eclosion) as it occurred during the middle of the night. By morning the moth’s wings, which are at first soft and folded close to the body had fully expanded and hardened. The moth was a male, small and with slightly curled wings, probably down to me not providing enough humidity whilst is was in the pupa.

Flexing wings 

 

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Despite his slightly dishevelled appearance, he was still a rather spectacular little creature and had the most impressive antenna I have ever seen!

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His only purpose in life, is to find a mate which he does by locating their pheromones using those impressive antenna. The adult moth does not feed, in fact it doesn’t even have fully functioning mouthparts!

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Adult atlas moths live entirely off their fat reserves and as a result their lives are brief, this small male survived for just over a week. Nevertherless it was a great opportunity to observe this remarkable creature up close and witness one of nature’s greatest transformations.

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The Magic of Life Butterfly House has been struggling throughout the pandemic and they, like other indoor attractions here in Wales still await a reopening date. It is hoped they will be able to open their doors to visitors again very soon and begin to repair some of the financial damage caused by the closure.

In the meantime you can help by donating to their Coronavirus appeal here:
https://www.facebook.com/donate/670322900487555/

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2020
www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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