Tag Archives: Butterfly diaries

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

Advertisements

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

Blue tits and Butterflies

Well as you can see I do like my butterflies, but it wasnt planned to have butterflies on almost every post on Natural Ramblings; its just what Ive been able to capture over the last week or more.

All my 6 Buddleia bushes are almost in full bloom and thank goodness they are all staggered; meaning my beloved bugs get to have food and supplies for a bit longer.

Well as I mentioned weve had some gorgeous hot weather over the past few weeks up until the last few days when weve had some heavy storms and sadly some of the butterflies are looking a bit worse for wear.

These delicate insects struggle enough to get from catapillar to butterfly especially in my garden with approximately 8 great tit and blue tit fledgelings, Ive been watching the poor parents run ragged with mouthfuls of caterpillas…eeep, I cant even find these caterpillas to phptograph….I need to follow those parents with my camera 🙂

A few photos I managed to capture of my Bluetit fledglings, I had to smile at how chubby he is compared to Mum and Dad and his 2 siblings seen either side. Is it just me or does he remind you of Orville..”I wish I could fly”

(Please click for larger images)

So with loads of chicks to feed my sudden butterfly explosion is dwindling as I type, but how can I choose who I would rather live, I adore my birds and insects, it has to be a balance with nature and you can never choose. But I still have a sad fleeting moment when I see a mouthful of wriggling caterpillars being stuffed into that gaping mouth. But then an immediate aww his gonna be a chubby one when you see his cute yellow fluffy face.

(Please click for larger more detailed images)

Back to our bad storms we had a few days ago I was photographing the butterflies and found this poor ragged Tortoishell buttefly feeding…yes you guessed it…on my Buddliea… 🙂

The fascinating thing was about this injured Tortie was that as I watched him I started to notice the many Comma butterflies bombard the poor thing knocking him clean off the flower sprigs. They were either being territorial or they sensed a weaker butterfly. I had to flap so hard to get back up onto another flower but within seconds to be knocked off agaon. It took all my will power not to protect him. I had to watch painfully as he struggled to fly to his next flower…Sadly I feel he wont be with us much longer.

The Tortoishell Butterfly Nymphalis urticae is another popular UK butterfly with its distinct mosaic effect colouration and beautiful blue spots around the edging of its wings. If you want to attract this gorgeous bug to your garden, you should not only grow Buddleia and Sedum spectibile but let the nettles grow nearby as they larvae need their food too. Dont clear away all your nettles its a the larval foodplant of many butteflies and insects.

Comma Butterfly on Buddleia

Comma Butterfly on Buddleia

This is one of the evil culprits as beautiful as they are!

Take some time out in your day…to just watch…its great theraputic value for you to lose yourself and you get to see some fascinating things; you are always learning with wildlife however large or small.

Coming soon on Natural Ramblings more Bees, hatching ladybirds and Swallow fledglings….maybe a few more butterflies.

Thanks for coming by

XxX

Butterfly Diaries #1

Peacock Portrait

Peacock Butterfly Inachis io on Buddleia

This is the first post of my new set of photos, I’m at my happiest when I’m outside photographing and I want to share with you the amazing mix of insects I have in the garden and surrounding fields. All of sudden in the last few week we have had gorgeous hot sunny weather and of course this has brought out all the bugs.  Ive had the camera almost permanently glued to my hand everyday for the last few weeks and and managed to capture so many different kinds  of insect and now I cant wait to get out every day; its an addiction.

So this is part one of a regular series of The Butterfly (and moth) Diaries which will be followed by the Bee diaries.

Its been such a fantastic few days of hot, hot, hot weather and in one day, actually in one hour I managed to find over 8 species of butterfly. The Peacock, Red Admiral, The Comma, Tortoishell, Frittilary, Large and small white and a skipper. It may have something to do with my 8 foot high Buddliea bushes mind you and wonderful scented butterfly attraction. I have to say too I wish I could add bloggascent to this post as it smells absolutely amazing outside right now. Even as Im typing the Buddliea scent is wafting in through my window, no wonder the insects love it.

Red Admiral on tree stump

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta on old tree stump.

This Red admiral was just stunning, his orange markings almost glowed in the late sunlight

Red Admiral on Buddleia

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta on Buddleia about to take off.

Red Admirals are one of the nations favourites here in the UK with its bold colours and distinctive markings and of course one of the larger butterflies we have. As a photographer I find them easier as they are not so flighty as the smaller ones, which you can end up following round for hours. This little guy was quite happy for me to photograph him.

Interesting Fact; Red Admirals can be found lapping at fallen apples during the Autumn in search of food.

Red Admiral closed wing

Red Admiral closed wing

The Red Admiral has the most stunning outer wing colouration yet once closed its has the most amazing camouflage with its tell tale pink and blue flash and raggedy leaf effect.

Detailed Red Admiral underwing

Detailed Red Admiral underwing

This colouration almost looks tatty and faded and can easily be missed when sitting in a tree or bush.

red-admiral5

The pink and blue flash really shows up here, yet nowhere to be seen on the main wing colouration, nature really is beautiful.

Red Admiral cute face

Red Admiral cute face

I had to include this shot as I loved the detailing on its face, butterfly eyes are just gorgeous with its spotted patterning.

comma-two-on-post

Comma Nymphalis c-album (Nymphaidae)

Another easily recognisable butterfly is the bright orange and raggedy edges on the wings of the Comma Nymphalis c-album (Nymphaidae) making it quite unusual.

I loved that these two were sunning themselves on one of our fence posts, they stayed here for hours enjoying e warmth.

Comma and Peacock butterflies sharing the Buddleia

This was so lovely to see two species so close as generally as soon as wings touch they are off, these two sat for a good ten minutes working their way round each tiny Buddleia flower, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Comma underwing

The distinctive white Comma on the dark brown underwing that gives this butterfly its name.

I wanted to show you this image in more detail as it has the most gorgeous dried deaf leaf effect underwing, this camouflage is just amazing. Behavior-wise you can even see it arches its head to follow the clean curve shape of a leaf.

Comma V-wingI loved the striking orange of the Comma against the background bright green bracken.

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeus (lycaenidae)

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeus (lycaenidae)

One of my more exciting finds was this adorable Small Copper, its orange colouration is stunning as it flutters around the garden. Behaviour-wise I saw it knocking other butterflies off the flowers, as they are extremely territorial; despite being so small. It actually dive-bombed a Peacock just minding its own bushiness on my Buddleia. knocking it clean off the bush.

Small White Pieris rapae (Piridae)

Small White Pieris rapae (Piridae)

One of Europes if the worlds most common small butterfly the Small white, sadly the lava is a pest of cultivated plants belonging to the cabbage family and can cause alot of damage in vegetable gardens and fields; but in contrast is much loved and welcomed in most cottage garden borders . You cant miss this adorable bright white butterfly as its flits from flower to flower and you know when Summer is here when you see these little guys around.

This one in particular has quite a split in its wing at the base, but it certainly didnt effect its flying ability, fingers crossed it wont get caught in the storms tonight.

Isn’t it typical we fight to get these gorgeous insects into Summer by wishing for great weather, growing the right plants for them. We sigh with relief to get amazing sunny hot weather for weeks so they can breed, they just hatch and then we have torrential storms, so I’m suspecting we will be losing alot again.

Fingers crossed for continuing good weather.

natural-ramblings-avatar

Coming next is my Bee Diaries and many more Butterfly images.

Thanks for stopping by.

XxX

The Peacock Butterfly – Is it a predator or a dead leaf?

I am lucky to have a garden with over 6 huge Budleia bushes and every year these attract the most stunning butterflies. I dont know why Im surprised when I stand in awe at the array of species we can have on just one of the bushes.

But one of the most common butterflies is the Peacock Butterfly Aglais io.

I have spent many happy hour absolutely lost in taking photo after photo of these stunning insects. This mini gallery is just a few of my favorite ones I have captured, the wing in particular is just beautiful, but being ever finiky with my own work I just wished he could have moved a bit nore into the sun just for a second 😉

The Peacock is a fascinating butterfly and is one of the UK’s larger species and most easily recognised. Its wingspan is approx 63-69mm wide and can be found all over the UK. Its laval foodplant is the common nettle.

But its known for its spectacular wing markings;

eyes

Opened up to reveal its true beauty you have 2 big blue eyes looking at you like a adorable mammal eyes, in its hope to deter any predator making him the next meal. Not all butterflies have them as dramatic as this, each one is different.

When the wings are closed it goes from stunning beauty to a dark brown tatty wrinkled leaf in seconds, only nature is this genius.

So I have added a few of my favourite photos to show you and Ill adding more soon.

Thanks for coming by.

X