October 10, 2007

Oh, the magic of nature!

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?


Harsha Koda said...

I was there to see him as a 'brown blob'.... nice to see the colorful creature that came out of it... i have begun to look at moths in a 'new light' now. Thanks for the 'mothy' lesson

dharmabum said...

oh, this is such a beautiful lesson of learning an discovery...oh, how much i loved reading this, and being a part of this fascinating journey.

what really caught my attention is your eagerness to teach your children - am sure they'd have enjoyed this journey. they're lucky to have a mom/teacher like u, i tell u.

lol @ bakasura :))

and, are u a biologist - i mean, how else did u figure that complicated name for the moth? its gorgeous though. simply love this. u have to send this to schools...they must include this in their lessons

Ramesh said...

wonderful lesson in Biology emphasizing METAMORPHOSIS. I bet the children had a blast with the practical lesson!! Your intrigue and diligence in observing the lifecycle is highly commendable--Bakasura needs the food so that when he assumes the role of Kumbhakarna (dormant-hibernation/pupa) he can still have the nourishment, before he evolves into a new AVATARA (moth) !!!

Have Fun!!!


Sadhana said...

Harsha: You are welcome!

Dharmabum: Thank you! No, I am not a biologist...the credit for finding the name of this moth goes to my friend Kobita, who came upon this fantastic site called www.whatsyourbug.com.

Ramesh: Thank you! I am so happy you are here often.

SUR NOTES said...

what a lovely way for a child to learn....and wonderful post.

Sadhana said...

Thank you!

sangeeta said...

I remember you emailing me and the kids about this.I was planning on buying them a silk worm and doing something similar.Thanks for the inspiration.M & T enjoyed the pics.

Maitreyi said...

Hey there! This is wonderful! The moth turned out to be so amazingly striking. Have you seen this french film called La Papillon? If you haven't, you really must, especially after your experience with Bakasura!

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Sangeeta: Thank you. Do try it out with the kids. Its a lot of fun!

Maitreyi: Thank you! I think I saw Papillion a long time back...don't remember it, though. Now that you mention a connection with Bakasura, will try and see it again. :)