Nibble… gnaw… chew… munch… chomp… gobble…
Chubby simply loved the large, luscious, tender, juicy, citrus leaves and was furiously going at it like Obelix on steroids. And he had a good reason to be insatiably gluttonous. One, he had to uphold the lineage which he was so proud of, being the caterpillar of the Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) – one of the largest moths in the world. Two, he had only about five weeks left before he would have to start spinning his silk cocoon. Given that the adult emerging from the pupa would not have a mouth and not be able to eat, the onus was on Chubby to stock up reserves to last the two weeks that the adult would live to fulfill its sole aim – to find a mate.
Chubby also had a secret motive of his own. He was in a hurry to weave his soft, pale sandy fawn coloured, fagara silk since he had got wind that once the adult emerged, the vacated cocoons were often used as small silk purses by simply attaching a zipper – take that for immortality!
Like a caterpillar possessed, Chubby kept at it for a good five weeks, purposeful and determined, gobbling up leaf after succulent leaf, till he was as plump as a partridge. And at the crack of dawn, one warm day in April, Chubby began spinning out an amazingly soft, lustrous, silken thread – his first step on an extraordinary journey, at the end of which he was preordained to transform into a winged Behe‘moth’!
(In pictures: the silken cocoon of the Atlas Moth @ Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali, Mumbai)