Daanya Purohit

12 Years

52 Years

Goa

Tussar Silk Moth – Saving nature, one moth at a time

Best thing you will read today, guaranteed! 12 year old Daanya Purohit, a  Bookosmian from Goa enthralls us with her love for moth conservation. Tell us about your passions!

moth essay bookosmia

Moths, how beautiful they can be! Unfortunately we don’t really pay attention to them. Many of you may not even have heard the word moth, or know that they are different from butterflies. Most think of them as an ugly dull coloured insects that fly around light bulbs. In fact, the true beauty of moths never gets appreciated.

 

Prehistoric Being

Well, let’s start with the first question, what are moths? Moths are insects that belong to the Lepidoptera order. Other insects that belong to the same order are butterflies and skippers.

Now, what makes them so special or important? We can survive without them right?! Well, actually, moths are very important to us humans and for our ecosystem. They help inpollinating flowers of fruit bearing plants and several food crops. That is not all, they are also an indicator species, which means that their presence indicates our environment is healthy and the ecosystem is thriving.

Moths serve a huge role in the natural food chain. Both adult moths and their caterpillars are food for an immense diversity of wildlife, like insects, spiders, frogs, lizards, birds and bats.

Finally, why don’t we know much about moths? That is because most moths come out at night while we are asleep. Being mainly night creatures, they are dull coloured, in comparison to their cousin – the butterfly. In reality, moths are far more ancient than butterflies and have been living on planet earth for over 200 million years.

The Tussar Silk Moth Lays Egg

moth eggs bookosmia

Evening Visitor

One late evening, it was the month of August, when a huge moth flew into my balcony. It was the biggest I had ever seen. Its wings were bigger than my palm.

I was so surprised and amazed with the beauty of this stunning creature. It was brown and had eye like patches on its wings. It was a Tussar Silk moth.

After admiring the moth for a few minutes, I decided to click some pictures. As I was clicking the pictures, through the camera lens I saw the moth was actually laying eggs. Yes eggs! I could not believe my eyes. I had never witnessed the egg laying process of any insect. But sadly the moth had chosen the wrong host plant. It was laying eggs on a Bougainvillea shrub, while the host plants of a Tussar Silk Moth are wild berry, wild nut, or the Jamun trees. Later she also laid eggs on by balcony glass window pane.

moth eggs bookosmia

My Raring Journey

Tussar Silk Moths lay egg in clusters, which when dries sticks together hard, and becomes difficult to separate.  So, I had to act fast.  I could not have let the eggs get wasted, could I?!I quickly got a box and put the moth and her eggs inside it. Since the eggs would take a week to hatch, I thought it would give me enough time to search my neighbourhood and find the right plant for release of the caterpillars.

It was only by the next afternoon that the moth finished laying her eggs. There were over 50 of them clustered together. The moth died soon after. Since Tussar Silk moths don’t have mouth parts they do not eat or drink anything, surviving only on the energy they gathered while eating as a caterpillar. The only purpose of an adult Tussar moth is to reproduce. This moth had completed its purpose.

About 6 days later, one morning I woke up to few tiny caterpillars. I was delighted.  Through the day, and the next few days, the eggs hatched in batches. I spent hours staring at them, watching the tiny caterpillars crawled out and munch on the eggshells.  By then, I had identified few host trees in my neighbourhood. I took the caterpillars down and realised them on its branches. However, I kept five of them with me, so that I could study their lifecycle. I made a large terrarium, fed them fresh leaves everyday and watched them grow.

moth caterpillar bookosmia

Over the weeks the caterpillars changed many times. They shed their skin, changed their colour – from yellow to green, and changed from nail size crawlies to fatter than my thumb creatures. This went on for about 15-18 days. Then one day, one of the caterpillars stopped eating. It crawled up to a corner of the terrarium and stayed there for a while. Soon after, it began spinning white silk web. Once the caterpillar was safely secured inside, the cocoon hardened staying firmly fixed on the terrarium wall. Slowly all the other caterpillars followed the same process.

About a month later, one early morning the first moth emerged. It was stunning, just like its mother. In the evening I took it to the nearby nut tree and set it free.

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