I thought about going outside and taking photos of the changing leaves, or posting the latest pic of my grandchild-to-be (except that a medical technician took it, not me), and then I remembered this series of photos of a Helena moth, newly emerged from her cocoon, in which she had undergone amazing change.
They were taken years ago, with a vintage SLR film camera, which sadly doesn’t (reliably) work any more.
Someone found a cocoon, and brought it home, where it sat on a window sill for a long time.
This isn’t the cocoon in question, but it’s the same kind. When Lucie found this one, it had already been vacated.
The one belonging to the moth in these pictures, however, had a sleeping beauty inside.
One day, we were puzzled by a strange scratching that went on and on. Eventually, we realised it was coming from the cocoon on the windowsill. Sleeping beauty had awakened, and was scratching her way out.
It is a long process – hours- but finally the moth emerges, utterly changed from when she wove her little shelter around herself.
Back then, maybe years before, she was a fat green caterpillar; now, she’s a brown, furry moth with crumpled wings.
Her impulse after she emerges is to climb. And then she sits quietly while her wings pump up.
Once more, the process takes a surprisingly long time. She didn’t choose a spot,or time of day with ideal lighting, so the focus is as soft as her plump brown body.
At last, her wings are fully extended. They need to dry, and then she will start to flutter them. She will rest for a while, and at dusk, fly off in search of a mate, who will find her by his marvelous sense of smell, and her pheromones.
The adult, with wings extended is about 10 cm (4″) across. I haven’t seen a caterpillar for years, although that’s not surprising, since they feed high in trees. We find cocoons occasionally, and Alex saw an adult moth in Ararat a couple of years ago. In the 70’s, my family raised some from caterpillars (in the kitchen – Mum wasn’t a trad housewife), and we witnessed all the changes they made from caterpillar, to cocoon, to moth. I remember that one pupated on the kickboard of a cupboard, and that my sister, who would have been about 7, ‘helped’ one out of its cocoon, which did it no good at all; they need to claw their own way out. So we put it back in, the other way around, and I held it in my hand for hours (whilst studying for exams), until it finally emerged, a healthy Helena.
Change can be good!