A famous character once quoted that “life was like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re gonna get“. Nevertheless, this project is not about chocolate. It’s about beauty, well hidden inside an ugly cocoon.
With The Pyri Project, I’m taking my hobby of raising butterflies to a next level. So far, I’ve been taking home caterpillars (and occasionally eggs) which I found in the greenery. This time, I will enter the loop of butterfly metamorphosis starting from the chrysalis, the pupa state of the butterfly. Breeding the hatched adults to produce eggs will be the first challenge.
For 6 months, 10 cocoons have spent an artificial winter in the vegetable compartment of our fridge (thanks to my wife for accepting this experiment). They would not survive the harsh winter outside in Finland. In a small, isolated freezer box, the cocoons overwintered in a more friendly micro climate. I opened the box every once in a while and checked all cocoons were still alive. This can be done by slightly shaking the cocoons. Feeling a little loose weight (the pupae) inside the cocoon, like the surprise in a Kinder egg, proves the chrysalis should be fine.
What species could be better for such a project than a majestic, large moth which is easy to observe and handle, also for children. Therefor, I decided to choose a moth I remember from my childhood dreams, the Giant Peacock Moth (Saturnia Pyri). Also known as the Giant Emperor Moth, Great Peacock Moth or Viennese Emperor, it’s the largest moth in Europe. It’s beautiful, and it’s big! This counts for both adults as well as caterpillars.
Even though it’s close relative, the Small Emperor Moth (Saturnia Pavonia) is pretty common in Finland the Giant Peacock Moth itself is absent. It’s range includes mostly southern and parts of eastern Europe. Hence, instead of finding the individuals to raise on a caterpillar quest I had to use a different option: order online. There are several serious businesses where people have turned their hobby into their job. The cocoons I will be breeding were ordered from and shipped by Worlwide Butterflies in the UK. They have excellent service and also offer a great range of breeding equipment and other stuff.
The goal is to reach a set of beautiful and large caterpillars by end of this summer. Furthermore, it is about following the transformation from ugliness to beauty, all the way. This is The Pyri Project.
Sienna holding a cocoon of a Giant Peacock Moth in her hand
Cocoons of the Giant Peacock Moth in a plastic box where thy overwintered in the fridge.
Cocoon of a Giant Peacock Moth