A couple of months ago I was walking the dog and I came across something suspicious on the ground, at first I thought it might be dog poo!
I tentatively looked closer.
It looked like a cocoon of some kind and I noticed more of them underneath Eucalyptus trees.
Back home I was able to discover that I’d been looking at the cocoon of the Rain Moth.
“The Rain Moth’s name stems from the fact that adult moths often emerge after rain, during the autumn months of March and April. They are also known under other common names, Fishermen who use the caterpillar for bait nickname them ‘bardee’ or ‘bardi’ grub. The Aboriginal name is ‘Waikerie’ and one that reflects its short and final life cycle is the Swift Moth. Astonishingly the Rain Moths will only live for one day. For 24 hours their sole role in life is to mate and, if female, to then lay eggs. The moths cannot feed or drink because they don’t have the appropriate mouth parts to do so.”
On 10th March I found a tiny baby possum on the ground, it made me feel sick seeing the little creature blindly scrabbling in the dirt. It didn’t look developed enough to be out of the pouch. I couldn’t see a mother nearby but eventually did spot an adult on a branch further away. I knew the chances of survival were very small because I’d spoken to a Fauna Rescuer only days before about another, bigger baby. Eventually I decided to put the tiny one in the fork of a tree closer to the adult possum.
I watched from a distance for a while but the adult made no move to come down to the baby. A while later I saw the adult climbing up in the tree canopy. I couldn’t bring myself to go and check on the baby at that time.
Last night, on the same branch that I’d seen the adult possum before, there was a mother Ringtail with two babies on her back. It thrilled me.
I decided to interfere with nature! The lovely healthy Swan Bushes had plenty of eggs on them but I could never find a single caterpillar.
The eggs on a much spindlier bush in a different position all seemed to hatch. I didn’t think there was any way for that bush to sustain all the caterpillars on it so I removed about half, put them in a terrarium and fed them with leaves from the flourishing bushes. They thrived.
It only takes a few days for the tiny caterpillar to emerge from the egg.
The caterpillar moults five times before it is big enough to start the change into a pupa. It seems to hang for at about a day before the radical changes start. I have no idea how the shiny gold dots are formed but the chrysalis is beautiful.
The colour of the chrysalis changes and by about the ninth day the wings are clearly visible through the now transparent Chrysalis.
It seems to me that the butterflies emerge mid morning, I think it’s possible that gives the butterfly a chance to be warmed by the sun a little before it sets off on its first flight.
Click on an image to go to the slideshow.
After the wings are fully “unpacked” the butterflies seem to spend at least half an hour opening and closing them before they make any attempts to fly.
When released outside they are in no hurry to make their first flight but when they do, unlike birds fledging, they simply take off perfectly.
All that’s left of the “Nursery Bush” after the seven caterpillars I left on it have pupated.
I don’t think I saw any Fairy Wrens last year at all, they didn’t even come when the “Stinky Bush” was flowering and they seem to love that. Today they reappeared and although the Red Wattlebirds chase them off as soon as they’re aware of them I did manage to get a couple of shots.
Below is a flower of the stinky bush, I have no idea what it is but it’s certainly tough.
I’ve had to start again, unfortunately ants disposed of the first lot of eggs despite my attempts to thwart them with grease on the Swan Bush stems. I didn’t want to use Ant Dust but that’s what stopped them in their tracks.