Things are going well in the Imperial Nursery which, rather to my surprise, I find myself running for the fourth year in succession. Although it is a chore having to resupply the voracious creatures with fresh leaves every other day, the reward of their rapid growth and the prospect of many more safely-hatched examples of the beautiful Emperor Moth is more than compensation.
This year I am raising mine in tandem with the Bedford family of Oxford who took up my offer on the Upper Thames Moths Blog of some of the eggs laid by the Empress in a Tupperware box on the day we went boating with friends between Windsor and Weybridge. Tom Bedford runs the excellent website and blog Out of a Blue Sky, mostly about birding but with many interesting moths too. He is a much better photographer than I am, and has kindly let me use this sequence of pictures showing how his little charges are getting on (supervised too by his school-age daughters who are shining examples of how much fun and interest young people can find in the natural world).
Back to my own efforts, the next couple of photos are attempts to deploy a magnifying glass to show the old skins which the caterpillars shed at each stage of their growth. Mine have now had two of these transformations and are flourishing so happily on hawthorn, of which we have limitless supplies locally, that there will be another one soon.
Meanwhile, we have had more egg-laying drama. The granddaughter particularly likes White Ermine moths, which duly turned up in force over Bank Holiday. Here are just some of them, below:
She asked if she could take some back to London and so we popped one sleeping example in a box with a couple of dandelion leaves. It was a good choice as it turned out; the next morning, there were five separate batches of eggs on the walls of the box - one of them intriguingly close to the air vent which Penny had cut in the plastic.
Fingers crossed for a successful breeding (and for my son and daughter-in-law, a dandelion-free lawn). I'll keep you in touch.