Category Archives: Butterfly Diaries

Britains day Flying Moths by

Front cover

Britains Day-Flying Moths

A field guide to the day flying moths of Britain and Ireland

After having the opportunity to review

Britain’s butterflies by David Newland and Robert Still

I knew this Moth version was going to be just as brilliant ID book.

I also have one other book from the Princeton press’s WILDguide series and that’s also brilliant, Britains Dragonflies; both guides offer stunning well detailed and well composed images taken by obviously brilliant photographers.

Britains Dragonflies (review coming soon)

I dont have many moth books so I was really excited to have the opportunity to review this brand new Wild Guide from Princeton Press. Those of you that know me know I have a passion for wildlife and photography; in particular butterflies and moths. I spend many hours taking photos of these amazing insects.

But what I do lack is being able to ID my moths correctly as we have 2,500 species, including 1,600 so-called micro moths in Britain and Ireland alone.

We have more than twice the number of day flying moths than we do butterflies and this books concentrates on those we are likely to see throughout the day.

I have a few butterfly ID books which carry a few species of moths but nothing consise or detailed enough to ID correctly.

Blurb

This concise photographic field guide will help you identify any of the 100 or so day-flying moths found in Britain and Ireland. Combining stunning photographs, authoritative text, and an easy-to-use design, this book makes a perfect traveling companion–one that will increase your enjoyment of these colorful and intriguing creatures. Like butterflies, some moths fly regularly in sunshine, whereas others that usually fly only at night are readily disturbed from their resting places during the day. This guide describes all of these species, with at least one photograph of each in its natural, resting pose. The text includes a brief description of each moth, with details of its life history, where and when to look for it, its status, the food plants of its caterpillars, and its special features. Introductory sections cover many topics, including how to distinguish moths from butterflies; classification; life cycle and behavior; ecological importance; the impact of habitat and climate change; recording and monitoring; and conservation.

  • Individual accounts for some 100 species
  • Stunning photographs of every moth, as you see them
  • Attractive, easy-to-use, and accessible design

Britains Day-flying Moths is one of the best Moth books I have ever read; David Newland, Robert Still and Andy Swash have created another stunning extremely well written and well researched ID book.

The book is divided up into easy to read sections right from the life cycle of a moth, moth biology (which really is a fascinating read). Right through to where to find them and how they are named and what plants to grow in your garden to attract them. Along side this detailed technical information it is accompanied by 320 gorgeous photos to help easily ID your moth.

Just to be clear though in the wording “Day-flying Moths” it is clear some species are definitely day-flying; but many can get disturbed accidentally making it difficult to compile a full list of day- flying moths out of the 2500 species of all moths in Britain and Ireland.

133 species of macro-moths are regarded as dayflyers, but being so very small they are often hard to ID; so only 22 species are included within the book; those which are more likely to be seen.

So within these gorgeous pages you will find 155 species of day flying moths those of which you are more likely to spot on your nature travels.

The moth species are divided up into eight sections within the book, one for each of the broad groups of day flying moths;

  1. Foresters and Burnets,
  2. Clearwings,
  3. Eggars, Emporors, Kentish glory and Hooktips,
  4. Geometrids,
  5. Hawk Moths,
  6. Tussocks, Footmen, Tigers and Ermines,
  7. Noctuids,
  8. Micro-moths.

NR6

  At the beginning of each of these is a fascinating section about these species. here is a peek at the Hawk Moth section; showing the beautiful detailed images. Hey Im not giving it all away you really need to see for yourself..

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The ID section is along the same lines as the other Princeton WILDguides if your familiar with those; in that they are easy to read but still offer detailed info.

One page is devoted to each species and is extremely comprehensive showing a large high quality photograph and;

  • Adult ID and special markings of both male and female.
  • Where found,
  • When flying,
  • Forewing length,
  • Laval food plant,
  • Similar species,
  • Behavior where relevant,
  • Breeding habitat,

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A clever touch is a vertical line in the top lefthand side corner for every species mentioned; showing you a visible example on how long its forewing actually is.

The large, clear maps give you an instant display on where that moth can be seen in the country.

The photos within the book are high quality and stunning from many photographers, you get to see a detailed large main image of the moth resting and in some cases more showing you different colourations that species may have.

There are easy to read charts simplifying food and laval plants of every species mentioned.

 Another chart shown here is so easy to read and sums up briefly the many species mentioned;

  • their latin name,
  • preferred habitat,
  • flight season,
  • main laval foodplant and
  • conservation status.

I found these charts easy to read and understand, without having to wade through the book to find each species. But the option is there if you want to know more about your moth is to go to its own detailed species page.

Conservation

As with all WILDguides there is a section on conservation and legislation as many of these moths are sadly a subject of conservation concerns and lists those that are rare. It then goes into detail about biodiversity action plans and legislation set out to protect these gorgeous insects. Plus details on the Butterfly and moth conservation society and how to record and monitor your moths with useful websites and further reading if you wish to get more active with your hobby.

Opinion

This has to be THE BEST book on moths in the market at this time. Its detailed comprehensive with stunning images, well composed pages and chapters. Its easy to read for those starting within the hobby or those more advanced that want as much information as possible on moths and different species.

I found the information fascinating and interesting but it doesn’t drown you in scientific talk and is easy to read with charts that enable you to lookup details of your moth quickly when you want to; down to full page detailed descriptions when you want more.

This helpful WILDguide will take you through ID-ing your moth to where to find it and what it feeds on, right down to what plants to put in your garden to help with conservation; it has something for everyone at every level of interest.

  Blood vein

I have used this book every week since it arrived and its helped me ID many of my own photographs that have sat on my hard drive for a few years; finally they have a name. In particular this beautiful Blood Vein I took a few years ago; that I hadnt been able to ID until now.

This gorgeous book will make a brilliant gift for any wildlife photographer, insect and wildlife lover, they will appreciate the work that has gone into the making of this comprehensive, stunning book. It has excellent quality glossy pages and I loved that it arrived with a heavy duty plastic sleeve perfect for out and about.

All you could want in one beautifully photographed affordable field guide.

About the Author

David Newland is the author of “Discover Butterflies in Britain” and the coauthor of “Britain’s Butterflies”. Robert Still, the cofounder of WILD”Guides”, has designed more than thirty of its titles, and is the coauthor of “Britain’s Butterflies” and “Britain’s Sea Mammals”. Andy Swash, the managing director of WILD”Guides”, is the coauthor of “Britain’s Butterflies” and “Britain’s Dragonflies” (all WILD”Guides”). 

 

Publisher Princeton press (22 September 2013)

ASIN B00EB7I6JK

224 pages,

322 colour photos,

Buy your copy from Amazon UK

£10.99

Help save the butterflies, moths and the environment!

Buying this book supports The Butterfly Conservation

All my thanks goes to Princeton press for sending me this gorgeous book for this review. All my opinions and views are my own.

XxX

Review coming soon

 from Princeton Press

 Please see my full photo review below on David Newlands other stunning book on butterflies.

 Plus book reviews coming soon from my own Natural History library.

dragonfly

 Britains Dragonflies 

allbooks

Plus many more I already own coming soon.

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End of Summer blues or Autumnal fun?

Darter

Did he make you smile…maybe just a little bit…how can you resist this face…or is that just me 😉

We can feel a chill to the air now, most places are suffering from rain and even snow in some parts of Scotland. So its no wonder were missing the gorgeous Summer months we enjoyed only up to a month ago,

Im sorry I have been quiet Ive had a few health problems. I suffer with ME and CFS and its knocked me completely off my feet; but Im gradually starting to feel a bit more human again so hope to catchup with everyone again soon.

Im really missing my insects already, I spent 3 solid months photographing butterflies, darters dragonflies, bees and moths and Im having severe withdrawal symptoms.

Brimstone

I literally took 100s of butterfly and darter images and Im excited to start sorting through and see what I have managed to capture for this year. This gorgeous Brimstone is one of my favorites of the year and I hope to have a few more.

So Im hoping to bring a bit of Summer back to you all as well as show you there is still alot of beauty in our grey Autumnal weather…no…really there is…honest.

With nature there is beauty everywhere, we have alot of fungi around at the moment; more than Ive seen in a few years, but I think they are the only ones enjoying this sudden dark, dull wet weather.

Im also really excited as Im getting a new toy in the next week; my other half surprised me with a Canon 7D for my birthday next week; something I have wanted since it came out. I apologise to the postman now as I will be lying in wait on Monday when its due. I feel like a big kid again, well it is my second childhood 😉

I cant wait to get my hands on it and see what it can do. Let me know if you are a 7D user; do you love yours. Im looking forward to the 8fps and the extra pixels.

So its good to be back again and Im looking forward to bringing you a reminder of Summer along with the beauty of Autumn.

See you all soon.

XxX

Chrysalis of the Small Tortoishell Butterfly

Crysalis1

Im bubbling over with excitement as I have just discovered a chrysalis attached to our garden wall, of all the places to pick. We have acres of grassland plants, nettles, thistles and trees and it picks the side of the cottage we walk past everyday.

I have been trying to find some Chrysalis’s this year so I could capture a complete photo diary for you; but Im not sure how long this has been there. I feel its only been a few days as we would have noticed it. I have been looking for for weeks now for a Chrysalis to follow while I’ve been photographing the butterflies everyday, so Im super excited to finally find one.

As far as my NEW British Butterfly ID book (see my full review) can show me; it looks like a Small Tortoiseshell chrysalis. The large Tortoiseshell has a lighter smoother outer shell.

small-tortie

From dull brown dead leaf look to stunning oranges and yellows. I was so pleased with this image as he was really obliging letting me take a photo of him for my review, with the book right next to it.  But its a complete coincidence that I only just posted my review of this book today and actually needed to ID the chrysalis today lol.

Im really looking forward to this little guy emerging and hoping to capture a photographic diary of the complete metamorphosis.

This gorgeous Crysalis is so well camouflaged for woodland environment, how could you not think this is a curled dead leaf.

Crysalis4

This is only hanging from one small bead of silk, so I will be keeping a close eye to check it doesn’t get blown off as it doesn’t have the protection of any surrounding plants or hedges.

macro

The detailing and colouration is really gorgeous, it looks like some sort of alien Dragon hanging upsidown on the wall; its a stunning chrysalis.

macro2

If you look closely you can see the colouration starting to appear within the chrysalis itself.

Ive been watching butterflies all my life and I’ve never got bored of this miracle of nature. Ive found a few Chrysalis ‘s but this will be the first time I have the opportunity to document it from my own garden. Fingers crossed and hopefully it will make it out into a stunning Small Tortie.

Coming soon on Natural Ramblings Dragonflies and horseflies and my first Butterflies inflight images, I’m so excited.

Thanks for popping by

XxX

Britains Butterflies by David Newland and Robert Still – Book Review

main

Britains Butterflies

A field guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland

By David Newland and Robert Still with David Tomlinson and Andy Swash

Those that know me know I have a passion for wildlife and especially the bug kind, with a love of Butterflies, Bees and Dragonflies. I have been taking butterfly photos for many years and its almost an addiction for me to capture as many photos as possible and this year has been the best yet with literally hundreds of butterflies visiting my garden, its been really special. But of course I have really needed a good ID guide to make sure I ID my butterflies correctly.

I was lucky enough to receive the second edition of Britains Butterflies one of the Wild Guides series for this review; from the lovely people of  Princeton University press

allbooks

I have collected a few ID books over the years and I have been using these to ID all my photography. I also have several butterfly ID books but nothing compares to Britain’s Butterflies which is a completely revised second edition covering the ID of all 59 species that currently breed, 4 former breeders, 9 rare immigrants and 1 species of unknown status.

dragonfly

 Britains Dragonflies (review coming soon)

I have one other book from the Wild guide series and that’s also brilliant, both guides offer stunning well detailed and well composed images taken by obviously brilliant photographers.

Front and back

British Butterflies has to be one of the BEST Butterfly ID books I have seen. This gorgeous book takes you through Butterfly biology and life-cycle with easy to read and understand diagrams and photos. Explanations of hibernation, migration, plus a thorough introduction to finding British butterfly habitats showing named areas in Britain to travel to see certain species. A real plus for me who enjoys nothing but looking and photographing these beautiful insects.

I have to stress this isn’t just an ID book its a fascinating insight to the complete life of a butterfly, showing how each species can be quite different in so many ways to the next, this really is a fascinating read for those of us who love these stunning insects.

 This book is so beautifully put together and you can clearly see the work and effort involved, the Author David Newland has spent since 2003 trying to photograph every species of butterfly in Britain and he has achieved this and more; including some unusual aberrations and rare species to form the most informative and user friendly field guide Ive seen yet.

description-pages

The ID section on each species of British butterfly is extremely comprehensive showing

  • Adult ID and special markings a detailed explanation of both male and female forms,
  • Behaviour – where relevant,
  • Breeding habitat – Summary of habitat preferences,
  • Population and Conservation – where to find that species and/or if they need conservation,
  • Egg, caterpillar and chrysalis – Brief description and measurements of each stage.

This is on the left side of the page, the opposite page has stunning images to show you male and female forms plus different colourations, wings open and closed. So many books don’t show you both, most butterflies look completely different depending on wings open or closed. The book clearly shows the differences. Its just beautiful to flick through for those that just want to ID your butterfly as well as those like me who want to know all about that species.

book-but-2

I couldnt resist adding my own image of this Small Tortoiseshell on my Budlea over the accompanying page of the book. It was a real chance shot.

Not photoshopped, that would have been easier 😉

Something that has been missing from most of my butterfly books is caterpillar ID’s so when I found there were not just the caterpillars, but the eggs…and….the Chrysalis’s too this made my day.

crysalis

 Detailed Chrysalis pages.

foods

There is also another section just on which food plants both butterfly and caterpillar enjoy so you can not only go out and try and find them; but grow the plants in your garden to attract them for next year.

book-but-3

 I couldn’t resist trying to get the butterfly near the page, this little guy was quite obliging.

Opinion

There are so many butterfly books on the market but this has to be THE best book on British butterflies you can get in my opinion. You not only get to ID your butterfly with excellent clear images, but you get to learn about it with easy to understand well composed pages and chapters. There are some computer generated images to show the species in a better background but even these have been seamlessly done. From beginner to advanced if you love butterflies what are you waiting for, you need this book and Im sure anyone will really appreciate and enjoy the amount of information on each species.

I have used or looked at this book everyday since receiving this it; I love it as I really appreciate the work that goes into capturing these little guys on camera being a wildlife photographer myself, they are generally quite camera shy.

There are 558 stunning colour photos within this comprehensive guide but for me it was not only the gorgeous images of the butterflies but the detailed info on the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalis’s that makes this guide stand way above the rest.

book-but-1

This gorgeous guide will be a perfect gift for the budding wildlife photographer or butterfly lover because of the depth of information. With extra information on where to go to watch or photograph certain species throughout the UK this book is light enough to take anywhere. It has excellent quality glossy pages and I was really surprised to find it has a heavy duty plastic sleeve; perfect for being out and about. Wow what a fantastic book, this is what I’ve been after for years!!!

All you could want in one beautifully photographed affordable guide book.

About the Author

David Newland has been a butterfly enthusiast since boyhood. He is the author of WILD Guides “Discover Butterflies” in Britain. Robert Still is WILD Guides publishing director. A qualified ecologist, he spends his time designing books and leaflets to publicize the natural world. When time allows, he travels the world in search of butterflies, cetaceans, and birds.

Published 2010

ISBN 9781903657300

224 pages,

558 colour photos,

 Get your own copy of Britains Butterflies

By David Newland and Robert Still

Amazon

£12.21

Help save the butterflies, moths and the environment!

Buying this book supports The Butterfly Conservation

All my thanks goes to Princeton press for sending me this gorgeous book for this review.

All my opinions and views are my own.

XxX

 Natural History Book Reviews coming soon

Another from the same Authors

Published September 2013

 Britains day Flying Authors

Plus book reviews from my own library.

dragonfly

My Mothberry?

mothberry6

I haven’t had a great year for strawberries this year, to be honest I hadnt tended to them as well as I did last year, so its probably my fault we havent had ANY yet…..!!!

I went over to check them this afternoon to find a large moth sucking happily away on the biggest strawberry I have…it was fine yesterday and I was planning to whip it off as a secret nibble, so that justice to me….lol 😉

But I couldnt help but grab a few shots with my little Panasonic Lumix TZ30. My Canon gear was all packed in bag and I didnt know how long he would stay for. But I neednt have worried as this little guy was absolutely oblivious to me shuffling next to it trying to get the the best position.

mothberry4

It was tough to get any shots as it was right in amongst the leaves and I couldnt get any piks of what he looked like on top….or…er…behind him…as…his hanging underneath; so Ive no idea what species he is. I will get back to you on his ID tomorrow.

I feel he maybe one of the Thorn family, a common rustic or an old lady, but Id gladly accpet some ID ideas if anyone knows what he is?

I am always amazed by this little camera on macro mode, the detail is gorgeous.

mothberry2

I love his beautiful orange antennae you can see on the left in this image.

You could actually see his body gently swinging as he was sucking away at the juice, in a way quite comical to watch, I could have been one of the Wrens who are nesting right above him or one of 2 sets of Blue tit parents collecting food continually through the day.

But oh..no…he had to have his strawberry juice….sheeesh…great last meal though…what a way to go!!

mothberry3

I tried this shot without flash and its come out more natural, but has less detail, see what you prefer, I thought Id add it to show you.

I had to laugh as I went back tonight after dark to see if he was still there and gently lifted the lweaves to see, only to jump as 2 black legs waved at me. A harvest spider was sitting directly ontop and I just hadnt seen it…jeeze what is it with strawberries today!

So Im guessing Im not going to get this strawberry this year!! But how could I begrudge such a tasty looking morsel to my beloved wildlife.

I will get back to you on the ID when I can, but if any of you know what he is by his underneath colouration or that gorgeous bright orange antennae, please let me know.

Coming soon on Natural Ramblings NEW Natural History Book reviews

Thanks for coming by

XxX

Friendly Bugs Live Wallpaper

I have been looking for an unusual live wallpaper for sometime, something thats natural and then I found this butterfly live wallpaper and was blown away with its beauty;  its one of the best ones Ive ever seen; I absolutely love this Friendly bugs app.

Bet your surprised I chose this one eh… 😉

I’m not really obsessed with butterflies honest, but this is really beautiful and oh so life-like! I know those of you that own a mobile or tablet or PC but also love butterflies like I do, will really enjoy this live wallpaper.

You dont need to be techie to enjoy this wallpaper, most of us have mobiles and tablets nowadays and it doesn’t have to be days-off and holidays to enjoy the natural world; take it with you wherever you go.

The makers Kittehface Software have made a fab job of animating these gorgeous butterflies that look so true to life.

Every image on this page is a screen shot taken on my Nexus 10 with its dazzling 2560 x1600 (300 ppi) display which makes this app even more stunning. The 4 million pixel screen makes the colours vivid and bright and the butterflies and ladybirds are sharp and just pop out from the screen.

The only way to show you how beautiful and realistic this app is, is for you to take a peek at my video below.

You really NEED to see this, its gorgeous!

Video on the Friendly Bugs Live Wallpaper. (2.50 mins)

The butterflies are actual species I’ve seen Swallowtail’s, Monarch’s, Peacock’s and many more. As well as Butterflies you have ladybirds too. Choose from having a few butterflies on your chosen background or choose “Invasion” mode where they fill the screen.

Settings 

As usual with the latest Live wallpapers around at this time there are alot of settings to play with to make it yours.

Backgrounds

This app allows you to change its background from the beautiful green of this sunlit leaf (above) which is my favourite; to some of the ones shown below.

 Driftwood.

 Patio Stone.

 Red Leaf.

 Dark Wood.

Others available are stone lichen and frosted glass these are the duller, darker ones, I prefer the ones above the best.

You also have the choice to add shadows which are overhead ferns seen here over these ladybirds, it makes it slightly darker but more natural.

I prefer the shadows off, so my leaf is a brighter green and you get the butterflies in full vivid colours like they would be in the sun.

Add your own Image background

An added bonus is the option to add your own image as the background, the butterflies will land on that instead, a neat idea! I used a photo of my dog and let them land on him…really novel.

Daydream Mode

It also works beautifully in the new  “Daydream Mode” on 4.2 devices which allows me to set this Live wallpaper while its charging, or in its dock, till its tapped then it resorts back to main screen.

Ladybirds

Another of the worlds cutest insects are the ladybirds alongside your Butterflies, who have their own settings where you can choose their colourations from natural, mixed or just red. The mixed colours is a nice touch where you will see purple, green and blue ladybirds, but being a nature lover I prefer true to life colours. You can then choose how many you have on the screen at one time, I prefer to have them all.

These little Ladybirds will also do the jitterbug if you tap the screen, they will shake their booty and jiggle in unison, its really cute; you can see this on my video.  

The butterflies however will be scared off but only for a few seconds!

Portrait Mode

Here are some screen shots in portrait mode too for those that want to see what it looks like for phones and those that prefer using your device in portrait mode!

My only niggle is that the butterflies don’t stay long enough on the screen for me to enjoy them enough. I wish there were just a few butterflies which stayed on the screen for at least a few minutes, whereas they simply land for several seconds and their off again.

 So can you tell I love this live wallpaper its fun and affordable to bring nature indoors, its de-stressing after a hard day and its so relaxing.

Opinion

I feel they gave this app the wrong name as its a stunning app and it should have been called something like Butterfly Bonanza or Butterfly Summer as Friendly bugs could be a complete turnoff for those that dont like insects! I know for a fact more people would buy this app if they knew it was just butterflies and ladybirds; not beetles, spiders or other crawlies!

It whisks me back to long hot summer days, the feel of the gentle breeze and the sun on your face with soft bird song in the background and the rustle of trees! Are you feeling it yet….? 

I adore this app, if you have a larger 8-10 inch screen tablet this is where this App really comes into its own but its still beautiful enough to get similar effect on your phone.  Even though I feel its aimed at the ladies, its a stunning app for any keen Lapidopterist (Butterfly enthusiast) as the butterflies are actual species.

If you’ve had a stressful day, turn it on and sit back with a coffee and let them flutter across your screen, for fun tap the screen and watch the ladybirds jiggle in unison. Its a beautifully relaxing affordable app at only 69p its worth every penny!

Summary

Updated – February 20th 2013,

Current Version is 2.15,

Requires android 2.1 and up,

Size 4.1MB,

Pro’s

Natural,

Believable,

Colourful,

Vivid colours,

Updated regularly,

Con’s

I would like to see a few butterflies sit still just for a minute or two, to really see how gorgeous they look.

So if you love watching butterflies head over to Google Play and grab your App for only

69p

You can also try the Lite version too for free to see how you like it, you cant go wrong; give it a go let me know what you think and thanks for popping by.

A tale of Thyme, ant and the sheep = The Large Blue Butterfly!

The Large Maculinea arion

Natural Ramblings isnt all about my photography, Its also about fascinating facts about wildlife, I never want to bore you with constant scientiific facts, you will just switch off. But what I would love to do is is renew your enthisiasm in our wildlife and show you some clever things they do to just survive in the world today.

Recently all Ive been rambling about is butterflies so on that note I had to share with you this amazing tale of Thyme, ant and the sheep.

Its a cuckoo in the nest of a cuckoo nest!

You’ll understand when youve read thos post, I hope 🙂

There have been many stories of different species co-existing togther just to survive, but nothing so astonishing as the story of the Large Blue Butterfly almost extinct thanks to the eighteenth century Victorian passion of collecting butterflies which nearly drove them nearly into extinction.  Conservationists tried to protect them by fencing areas of heathland and preventing the grazing of sheep, but still numbers declined and by 1979 they had almost disappeared from Britain.

The stunning Large Blue is the largest and rarest of our blue butterflies; but also one of the cleverest and Im excited to share with you all just HOW CLEVER!!!

These stunning butterflies start life as an egg being laid on Wild Thyme, where the adult also feeds on. When the egg hatches the tiny caterpillars eat the buds and the developing seeds. At this point the largest or fattest and strongest caterpillar may eat the other caterpillars too.

The last caterpillar left then falls to the ground where its then mimics the scent of the red ant lavae in the form of a pheromone. The red ant comes along where the sweet sickly scent drives the ant wild, making it lick and clambering all over it sipping the secretions from the caterpillars glands at the end of its body. The caterpillar takes this behavior for several hours until it finally curves its body into the rigid shape of an ant larvae.

Large Blue caterpillar tended by frenzied ants

The ant thinking its now one of its own larvae drags it back to the ant nest and lays it with the other larvae deep within the nest. The hungry beastie then continues to feed on the other ant larvae. The ants will attack any invaders but this clever caterpillar keeps producing this pheromone that is similar to the ants and remains undetected.

During this time its skin becomes tough and cannot be attacked and the greedy caterpillar continues muching on the ant larvae for nearly a year. This amazing story doesnt stop here, the caterpillar even emits a sound like the queen ant, making the other worker ants fussing frenzidly round it licking and tending to it like royalty where after it has grown to almost 100 times its original size it turns into a chrysalis. (For those interested see this fascinating post about the sounds emitted from The cente of ecology and hydrology)

Then in late Spring it emerges and literally flies the nest.

The theory to the near extinction of this stunning but genius butterly is that there were many factors involved in this near extinction, the fact is its seems to be just one species of ant that the caterpillar can mimic the Red Ant Mermica sabuleti, its not every species of ant. Thes particular red ant are so sensitive to temperature and humidity and can ONLY survive themselves when the grass has been cut short by sheep or rabbits and then exposed to hot sun. So back in Victorian times the conservatioists were trying to help by fencing the sheep in stopping them naturally grazing on the grass; BUT they had actually prevented this vital link in the Large Blue’s life cycle.

Ichneumon Wasp Family

image from Insectoidinfo

BUT as they say in the movies…thats not all…there is yet another bad guy….dada…the Ichneumon wasp family.

This is a parasitic wasp not like our common yellow stripy ones we see regulalry, these guys seem to know which ants nest contain the caterpillar…maybe by the pheromone or the unual feenzied activity of the ants themselves, but they then go into the ants nest searching for the caterpillar. The ants attack the wasp but it sprays them with another pheromone which makes them turn on each other, so while all hell breaks lose, the wasp continues to look for the caterpillar.

When it finds its prize the female wasp injects it with her ovipositor laying her own egg. The unfortunate caterpillar continues to grow and turn into a chrysalis but when the pupa splits its NOT the stunning Large blue but a large black Ichneumon Wasp.

These stories really blow me away about how nature fights to survive and co-exist with each other, but sadly one species will gradually be unable to fend for itself and gradually start to die off.

Luckily several conservation societies are fighting to maintain the Large Blue’s environement and we are very slowly and gradually seeing a return in these amazing butterflies in the south western England, it makes me wonder what they will do next to survive!

 

Links and sites with more info on these beautiful butterlfies.

The National Trust have their own blog which is following the Large Blue conservation project in Collard Hill in Somerset called…yes…you guessed it…what else would you call it… The Large Blue Blog

Sadly Large Blue butterfly season has offically been declared over in Collard Hill so dont go rushing over there today.

 

For those of you that want to know more take a look at the Butterfly Conservation society here

Conservation status

  • Listed as a Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England
  • UK BAP: Priority Species
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High
  • European status: Endangered
  • Fully protected In Great Britain