Alfred Russel Wallace once tried to help an emperor-moth but unknowingly caused it harm.
He came upon the emerging moth beating its wings and struggling wildly to force its passage through the narrow neck of its cocoon. It had fine proportions, eight inches from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other, and he thought it a pity that so attractive a creature should be subjected to so severe an ordeal. He took out a sharp blade and slit the cocoon.
The moth came out at once; but its glorious colors never developed. The soaring wings never expanded. The indescribable hues and tints and shades that should have adorned them never appeared. The moth crept about; drooped perceptibly and soon died.
The furious struggle with the cocoon was nature's wise way of developing the wings and of sending the vital fluids pulsing through the frame until every particle glowed with beauty.
The naturalist had saved the creature from the struggle but had unintentionally killed it in the process.
Source: F W Boreham, Mushrooms on the Moor (London: Charles H Kelly, 1915), 135-136.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Emperor Moth—“The naturalist had saved the creature from the struggle, but had unintentionally killed it in the process.”