Nettles! A bit of an eyesore. Even worse when you brush an unfortunate arm or leg against one. We have loads (we’re not great about weeding!). And I’d quite happily cut them all down, except for the fact that I know they are where Peacock butterflies lay their eggs. And I can’t bring myself to destroy hundreds of butterfly eggs.
So I let Tea bring in five caterpillars last week, with a whole bunch of nettles (gloves essential). We poked some holes into the top of one of those plastic storage boxes you see at homeware shops, put a wet sponge inside (for humidity or something? Or was that just something I made up?) and let them get to work munching. They were about 1.5cm across last Thursday when we brought them in. Today they are about 3cm long and 0.5 cm thick. They’ve grown!
I thought it might take them quite a while to get to the chrysalis phase. But yesterday, I found a caterpillar hanging from the stem of a nettle (first picture on the left) and I assumed this meant it was about to get spinning. I was right. This morning, there’s a beautiful chrysalis in its place (picture on the right). And not just one. I’ve found two others, and the remaining two are starting to curl up just like the first picture.
Chrysalises (plural?) are pretty special. One of them has flecks of gold woven into it – gold? How did the caterpillar do that. And if you look at the intricate surface of each chrysalis, there’s a variety of grooves and ridges and colours.
Peacocks are my favourite butterflies… can’t wait to see them emerge. We’re going to transfer these into a pop-up butterfly home over the next few days, put a sponge of sugar water in there and wait to see the butterflies emerge. And then we’ll set them free. Though Tea pulls a face when I say that!