Recently Ryan made a wonderful discovery when early in the morning he noticed this puriri moth on our Kindergarten deck.
Puriri moths are one of nature’s taonga; in their adult form (the moth) these beautiful creatures live for only two days! Therefore as you can image, the opportunity to observe one up close was snapped up by the staff and the children.
The puriri moth is one of our most magnificent moths. It is the largest moth in New Zealand, with a wingspan of 15cms.The puriri moth is the adult of their species. Most of the moth's lifecycle is spent as a caterpillar. After caterpillars hatch they spend a few months feeding on fungi, then the young caterpillar (or mokoroa) will climb a tree, and burrow inside. Their preferred native trees are puriri, putaputaweta, makomako or lacebark.
They live on the sap of the tree, eventually causing its death and decay – hence the saying ‘he iti mokoroa e hinga pūriri’ (the little mokoroa grub fells a pūriri tree). After about 7 years living inside the tree’s trunk, the caterpillar pupates into a moth, and then it emerges – briefly – to find a mate, and then dies (Department of Conservation).
Observational drawings by Kito and Emma
One of the first things we observed after picking up the moth is that it kept making a vibrating motion with its wings. This strange movement and drumming hum caused the adults and children to voice many theories.
Was it in its death throes?
Perhaps it was calling a mate?
Maybe it was hungry?
However the reason for the vibrating was soon revealed when beyond any of our imaginings the moth started laying eggs in my hand!
Female puriri moth can lay up to 2000 eggs! The eggs are round and pale yellow when first laid, turning black a few days later. They hatch in 12-14 days.
Composed observation soon turned to a flurry of action as we responded to this call of nature by taking the moth to the garden where she could safely ‘scatter’ her eggs (other eggs were also kept safe in a box).
So now the puriri moth had completed her life cycle. It’s hard to imagine that something so magnificent has such a fleeting life. However puriri moth emerge with no mouth parts; so like all of their species, this one too soon died.
As teachers and advocates for offering children authentic experiences we chose to ‘pin-out’ the dead moth and engage the children in further inquiry.
Nature provides an inexhaustible supply of interesting topics. Young children want, need and deserve authentic experiences with real objects. Because they are concrete thinkers, real experiences help them to learn about their immediate world and things that are relevant to their lives (Natural Wonders- Marie Oltman – 2002).
Real, authentic experiences provide the foundation to countless learning opportunities. They provide the context upon which other experiences are hung. Learning can be extended farther and faster if it is based on the real thing (Natural Wonders – Marie Oltman – 2002).
One week after our first encounter with the moth we prepared to transport the last of her eggs into Mairpark. One of our children’s favourite destinations on our Nature Programme is to a tree ardently referred to as the ‘Magic tree’. This ancient Puriri seemed a perfect place to scatter the last of the (now black) eggs.
Research had informed us that puriri caterpillars eat rotten leaves and fungi after hatching. The children chose a spot among boulders that they felt would be perfect for the newly hatched ‘babies’. So after clearing leaf litter, the last of the eggs were returned to the bush. “Goodnight babies, all tucked into bed” said Hori. And we are all left to wonder; if a new moth emerges, will it come back to Kindergarten?