Stargazer LilyStargazer Lily

Metamorphosis

March 09, 2013  •  2 Comments

My pursuit of photography for charity has led me on unexpected paths. For the past 2 years, the Hong Kong Gardening Society has used my images for their calendar with a stipulation that it contributes the licensing fee to charity.  The HKGS decided to promote the study of biodiversity to school children and has recently set up a Butterfly garden at the Glenealy School.  During the opening, I had the good fortune to meet up with Lepdopterist David L Mohn who is teaching me how to raise butterflies.  Our first outing was to Tai Tam Country Park where we found several caterpillars.  This is a chronicle of the first two caterpillars under my care.

The first caterpillar we found was an Inchworm moth caterpillar (Geometridae Geometrinae Dysphonia militaris).

We also found two common faun caterpillars(Nymphalidae Amathusiinae Faunis eumeus). Both were fairly large and probably in their final instar stage. One of the caterpillars died after about 5 days from causes unknown.  The other continued to grow and develop into a beautiful butterfly.

 

Over the next month, I watch the caterpillars grew, shed their skin, pupated and emerged as a butterfly and moth almost at the same time.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plant food for the common faun is the smilax.

 

 

The inchworm feeds on Rhizophoraceae Carallia barchiata.  The Inchworm caterpillar has only one pair of prolegs.  It moves by arching its rear end by an inch in a looping gait - hence its name.

After about a week, the caterpillar hung itself upside down in preparation to pupate.  It then sheds its skin and surrounds itself in a chrysalis.

The inchworm forms a cocoon at the bottom amongst the foliage rather than hang itself like the butterfly. The outer shell hardens over the 2+ weeks.  The cocoon then softens and darkens. 

Darkening of the chrysalis signals impeding emergence of the butterfly.

Newly emerged faun butterfly still hanging on to the chrysalis.  This is what I saw when I got home from work.  I just missed its emergence.  I want to do time-lapsed photography of the process but missed them both times.  Hopefully better luck next time.

On the 18th day, the cocoon became very dark and squishy.  I suspect the moth is ready to emerge.  I set up my camera to take an image every 30 sec starting at 4 am to 6 am.  When I woke up the next morning, the cocoon was still intact.  I turned the camera off thinking that most moths and butterflies emerge in the early morning (according to the books).  Following the book is a mistake!  When I returned from work at 1 pm, I saw the cocoon had moved but I did not realise that the moth had already emerged.

The newly emerged moth is still quite lethargic and resting after emerging.  I placed it on a pot of African violets that my wife has just bought.  It stayed there for quite some time giving me ample photo opportunities. 

Apart from the obvious of learning about how to care for caterpillars and how they developed into butterflies and moths through metamorphosis, I also discovered an inner transformation in myself.  A nature photographer should not just be a casual observer of the natural world but should be an active participant in the process.  However, one should be mindful not to interfere with the process and observe the codes of conduct on collection of butterflies and moths of the Leptopterist society.  I did photograph both the butterfly and moth above in a soft tent but they were free to fly away after the process.  Both stayed the night before venturing out into the wide world the next morning.  I placed the moth in an opened cup on the terrace in the morning to sun itself.  I did see a couple of sparrows flew down to check it out.   I do not know how this pair will fair and feel a tinge of sadness by their departure which I realised is just a touch of attachment on my part.  I am sure that they have no reciprocal feeling towards me.   There is so much danger in the wide world but Nature is just like that.

 


Comments

Howard Cheek(non-registered)
Excellent presentation Gary, glad I took the time!
Sylvia Midgett(non-registered)
Hi Gary,

Great work, keen observation and wonderful self realization! So glad that this Project has taken wings in more ways than one.

Responding deeply within when contemplating the wonders of nature must have been a meaningful experience for you. Just like the metamorphosis of the caterpillars, at the core is transformation.

We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives. The gift of the Butterfly Garden is aimed at enabling participation and gaining knowledge of the intrinsic value of biodiversity. Transformation of our environment and our lives will happen when we embrace biodiversity.

David has been an incredible resource. We are all richer in knowledge and friendship.

Sylvia Midgett
Chair, HK Gardening Society
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