Urban wildlife throws pleasant surprises when we least expect . One afternoon my apartment Security guard called me and said “Madam, come down with your camera soon, there is a very big butterfly near the gate”. As usual I hurried down to have a peek at the interesting sighting. What I found was a huge moth , mustard yellowish in color with maroon and pink. The wings had an eye like markings which were actually showing the color of the wall. The eye pattern on the wall was transparent in the middle. It was delightful indeed to find this moth thrive in an urban environment.
After taking a few clicks I checked for the id with a seasoned naturalist who confirmed it as the Tussar Silk Moth. These moths are part of a group called the Emperor Moths or Saturnids. This moths wing span was 6.5 inches .This female moth was laying eggs .
These eggs were laid near the Indian badam tree (Terminalia catapa ). The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of this tree. The moths lay eggs in small batches in different food plants so that competition for food is reduced among caterpillars. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of the tree voraciously not only for its own growth but for the metamorphosis and to produce silk to weave its cocoon.
These moths do not have mouth parts at all as they do not feed at all during their short adult life span. The moths hairy body muffles the scanning signals of the bats. The mysterious transparent windows on the wings add to the beauty of the moth.
The Tussar Silk Moth is one of the moths from which wild silk is extracted. It has not been commercially reared unlike the Mulberry silk moths where the silk is extracted by boiling the cocoons, killing the caterpillars inside. The tribals are adept in extracting Tussar silk from the cocoon after the moth emerges from it . The Tussar silk industry makes extensive use of rural and tribal labor.
So if you explore your surroundings I am sure you will be amazed and will appreciate nature better and hence conserve .
This was published as an article in CityPlus newspaper .