The Navi Mumbai-based iNaturewatch Foundation, run by V. Shubhalaxmi Reddy, an entomologist, has honoured the 22 children for successfully rearing 40 caterpillars to adult moths/butterflies this year.

Around 200 schools across the country participated in this, and the highest number of caterpillars was successfully bred by students of Moodambail school.

These students from Classes VI to VIII were drawn into the project, thanks to the efforts of their headmaster Aravind Kudla. “I saw a Facebook post and contacted the project coordinators and involved our students in the project, which helped our children understand the growth of caterpillars,” he said. 

Collecting caterpillars

In August first week, children collected over 100 caterpillars from plants around their houses. They were brought to the school and kept in separate boxes with holes to breathe. The children regularly took care of the caterpillars, feeding them and cleaning the boxes.

“As many as 60 caterpillars were successfully reared to adult moth/butterfly. Of them, 40 turned into moth/butterflies by August 31, which was the date prescribed under the project,” Mr. Kudla said. 

The students physically recorded the plants from which the caterpillar were picked. Each change in the caterpillars’ cycle was photographed and physical features were recorded. Mr. Kudla and other teachers helped students to record the findings in the digital format, which was sent to the organisers. 

In the letter to Mr. Kudla appreciating the work of the children, Dr. Reddy said the foundation was thrilled by the students’ excitement and interest throughout the project. “We greatly appreciate the effort put forward by you and your pupils,” she said. The foundation has sent certificates to the 22 students and also presented them a field guide on butterflies.

Now, despite completion of the project, students have continued with rearing caterpillars in the school. An adult female Southern Birdwing, which is the largest butterfly in India and is billed Karnataka State butterfly, came out of the box maintained by Class VI student Prateeksha on September 26 to the joy of the entire school.

About the project

The caterpillar rearing project for schools, the foundation said in its website, was an effort to create an exhaustive database for moth hostplants. Presently, the hostplant database for moths in India was very patchy. The project would also facilitate further research in the area. By involving students, the foundation said, it was making them learn more about plant-insect interaction. 

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