Today, my parents drove me to London to drop some stuff off in my flat and just before we left I noticed a caterpillar on the front door. It is a Small White (Pieris rapae) larva, which I have seen a couple of in the backgarden, although the Large Whites are far more numerous.
It wasn’t particularly interesting at first, until I noticed the small white thread running across it’s body, attaching it to the door frame. You can see it coming off the body of the caterpillar in the small picture. I guessed that this meant it was beginning to cocoon itself ready to transform in to a butterfly. Other caterpillars move away from their feeding plant to cocoon and I hadn’t been expecting to find many of them once they left. So it seemed quite lucky to find this one attached to the front door! However, I did some reading about Small Whites and apparently they usually cocoon themselves on the feeding plant or in some nearby debris. Now this is weird, because there is nothing near the front door to show that caterpillars have been feeding there, so it seems that it is lucky to have seen it, but only because it is unusual behaviour for this species!
We got back from London about six hours after having left (in which time I dropped things off in the flat and signed the contract with the agent – I will actually start living there on Wednesday) and I had a quick look again. I was really surprised to find that the caterpillar was already advanced to the pupa stage!
It had only been six hours and already it had completely changed the shape of it’s body. I was really impressed with the speed of this. Now it has 11 days until it emerges as a butterfly and then only about 3 weeks until it dies. It seems such a fleeting life, especially considering all the changes in bodyshape it goes through. Of course, it’s entirely natural and such speedy change is another thing about wildlife to appreciate. It is a shame that I will be living in London when it emerges and won’t get a chance to see it!