"Cocoon gathering in the fall is one of the most delightful occupations
imaginable. When flowers are gone, when birds have migrated, when
brilliant foliage piles knee deep underfoot, during those last few days
of summer, zest can be added to a ramble by a search for cocoons.
Carrying them home with extreme care not to jar or dent them, they
are placed in the conservatory among the flowers. They hang from
cacti spines and over thorns on the big century plant and lemon
tree. When sprinkling, the hose is turned on them, as they would
take the rain outside. Usually they are placed in the coolest spots,
where ventilation is good.
If they are
kept cool enough that they do not emerge until May or June, then you
have one of the most exquisite treats nature has in store for you,
in watching the damp spot spread on the top of the cocoon where an
acid is ejected that cuts and softens the tough fibre, and allows
the moth to come pushing through in the full glory of its gorgeous
birth. Nowhere in nature can you find such delicate and daintily
shaded markings or colours so brilliant and fresh as on the wings of
these creatures of night.
If you want
to photograph them, do it when the wings are fully developed, but
before they have flown. They need not be handled; their wings are
unbroken; their down covering in place to the last scale; their
colours never so brilliant; their markings the plainest they ever
will be; their big pursy bodies full of life; and they will climb
with perfect confidence on any stick, twig, or limb held before
them. Reproductions of them are even more beautiful than those of
birds. By all means photograph them out of doors on a twig or leaf
that their caterpillars will eat."
-- "Moths of
the Limberlost," by Gene Stratton-Porter