I found this beautiful green caterpillar on a crape jasmine plant (Tabernaemontana divaricata; nandivardanam in Telugu) in my balcony. He had finished half of the leaves on my plant, and was still eating hungrily. I had always wanted to watch the life cycle of a butterfly/moth. Here was my chance! My friend Kobita had successfully reared this very caterpillar recently, and I thought I’d do it too. If I could pull it off, it would be the best botany lesson for my children, and the other kids in the building.
I put him along with the branch into a bottle with holes on the lid. We named him Bakasura...the rate at which he was eating inspired the name! There was a steady input/output, actually...he ate and he pooped seed-like black droppings, sometimes simultaneously! (I had earlier sowed these droppings, thinking they were seeds!) This went on for one whole day.
The next morning, we were startled to find that Bakasura had turned into a brown-black larva, with silvery white dots. This amazing transformation happened overnight! He continued the input-output, but not as much as the previous day. After a day or two he stopped eating completely and stopped moving too.
Bakasura became a familiar name in my house...he was our pet. My children’s friends came to see him, my friends and family called to ask how he was! On day 10, I gave him a ride to my children’s school, where I showed him to a group of children I work with once a week. They were excited and I promised that I would show them the moth after it hatched. Over the next few days, the outside seemed to harden, and became more black than brown. He also shrank and curved somewhat.
Well, Baks stayed like this about 14 days. I was beginning to get worried that something had gone wrong...I hate to interfere with nature, and just didn’t want him to die. We watched him on and off, for signs of change.
On the 16th day, around 8 pm, he came out of the pupa. Suddenly, there was the pupa shell as usual, AND this green moth with a lovely pattern on it. We were overjoyed..it was like childbirth! The next morning, after showing him to the children in school, I left him on the Oleander plant (Nerium oleander host plant for this moth; ganneru in Telugu) in our backyard.
Our Bakasura is now an Oleander Hawk-moth. Isn’t he gorgeous?