Hatching of a different kind

For some reason this spring I started finding cocoons and chrysalises. It started with the wonderful one I found in March, which I’d determined was likely the cocoon of a Ceanothus Silk Moth. It had been pretty battered up, so I didn’t expect much, but I put it in a huge glass jar with a piece of screening over the top, and left it outside the kitchen window so it was sheltered but I could immediately see if anything hatched.

And then I found another cocoon, a weird hairy one. And then I found a chrysalis. I added them to the jar.

Then in June I encountered a moth that was really beautiful, in a subtle way. It was a Virginia Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica). It was very sluggish, though it wasn’t a particularly cold day. So sluggish that when I moved it from the spot that it needed to be moved from, it just tipped over onto its back and lay there.

Virginia Tiger Moth
A view one doesn’t usually get.

I wondered what was wrong with it; it didn’t look torn and tattered, it looked all bright and new. I took some pictures and then put it on a tree, and after some time it was gone.


Retrospectively, I think it was new-hatched, because when my babies started emerging I realized that they needed a long rest period after the stress of Getting Out of That Damned Cocoon/Chrysalis. A great photo op for me, though.

Everything I had ended up hatching, though I’ll start with the last, as it was the saddest. It was a swallowtail butterfly, and its wings were badly deformed, with crumpled fragments wrapped around its body: mostly they seemed to have melted to nothing. I’ve read that it’s possible to repair wings (if you have spares) but I’m sure this was beyond that kind of surgery. I wonder how often this sort of thing happens, and why? I did a bit of reading on this, but it was indeterminate. Monarchs are subject to a nasty thing called OE spore and there’s something else that affects bees, so maybe it was something like that. Anyway, I put it on a flower so that it might maybe get a sip of nectar, and within half an hour it had disappeared. Made some bird a happy meal, I expect.

deformed swallowtail butterfly

At any rate, the first thing to hatch in my jar was a Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata). Its cocoon was the weird furry thing on the lump of dirt in the bottom of this picture.

Spotted Tussock Moth

I set it beside the jar and it just sat there most of the day. Must have been pretty tired.


It has wonderful caterpillars; I’d seen these occasionally and wondered what they turned into. Now I know!

And then the Ceanothus Silk Moth hatched. But that’s a different post, because it was an Event, and I’m still putting together the pictures.

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