Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Lepidoptera Week

I thought I would join Shannon Garson on her Lepidoptera week celebrating butterflies and moths.

As I had spent most of the weekend trying to eradicate the moths that had been steadily chomping through my woollen jumpers over the summer, I felt I owed it to the furry menaces to write something positive. And it is not the moths themselves that eat your clothes - most moths barely eat at all and some don't even have mouths and digestive systems. The moths exist for one reason only- to reproduce and it is their 100s and 1000s of offspring that do the damage.

I am fascinated by casemoths and have based some jewellery designs on them in the silver earrings and glass shard necklace you see above. These are the little agoraphobic grubs that build their homes out of twigs, lint or whatever comes to hand. If you find them in the garden they may look like a bundle of twigs which suddenly comes to life as the grub inches along only poking its head out when it finds something juicy to eat. They always have perfect camouflage as they make their cocoon homes out of whatever is in their immediate environment. I found the one above on my mailbox. The silly thing was no longer camouflaged and had been eaten out by ants. It really should have used junkmail for its cocoon.

A friend told me a wonderful story about casemoths. She used to keep peacocks and had a large box full of their beautiful tail feathers stored under her house for some time. After she had liberated the peacocks (that is another story), she went foraging for the feathers as she rather missed the noisy, smelly birds. All that remained were the stalks of the feathers and hundreds of beautiful jewelled casemoths what had made their cocoons out of the feathers!

Another example of these resourceful creatures is a casemoth found in a bushire devastated forest that another friend presented to me. The little grub had no sticks or leaves to make its cocoon out making do with little bits of charcoal so that it resembled a victorian mourning jewel made out of shiny jet.

The behaviour of casemoths which hide and protect their vulnerable bodies is rather like the way we wear clothes. Only the bravest or stupidest of us shed the cocoon and run around in the open drawing attention to our predators! I cannot think of any other creature that makes a structure to walk around in and protect their soft grublike bodies. Come to think of it, I think casemoths might be our closet cousins so we really should stop killing them and learn to share our clothes nicely!


shula said...

Rebecca, darling,

I too, adore cocoons, and admire the art of the case moth as much as the next person.

But if they think I am going to share my collection of 1930s feedsack and my Parsi silk braids with them, THEY HAVE ANOTHER THING COMING. I don't care how beautiful the pods would look.

I've got one word for you.


Stunning designs. I couldn't take my eyes off them.

And I have one of those chicken egg cups, if you're still grieving. It's a little worse for wear, but in one piece, at least.

chiefbiscuit said...

Fascinating - I don't think we have case moths over here. I love the thought of the peacock-coloured ones.

I promise to post some sunny pics of Dunedin - in fact I did today! :)

Rebecca-the-Wrecker said...

thanks shula- yes i've declared war against those clothes moths too. thanks for the offer of the egg cug but it was probably a blessing in disguise - as an op-shop addict i suffer from endless clutter!
wow CB, maybe we should all move to NZ- it really is the promised land- no snakes, case moths or Howard! And the sun comes out at least twice a year.