Chasing Butterflies

Evidence of butterflies at sustainable living projectLook at this neat little cluster of eggs!  Yep, the large white butterflies have been at my kale.  So have  the small whites, in fact, and their tiny singly laid white eggs are much harder to spot.

If you wish to protect your brassicas from minute munching caterpillars your best bet is probably to cover them over with fleece so the eggs can’t be laid on them in the first place.  I’d probably do this if I had an allotment but the veg patch is what I see from where I’m working in the kitchen and I like to look upon pretty vegetables not ugly fleece. 

Other options are to companion plant brassicas with nasturtiums as the butterflies favour these for their egg nurseries, but we have these and there is still definitely a preference for the kale, maybe it’s those nice cosy, crinkly crevices.  You can manually remove the eggs as you spot them, although it does make you feel a bit mean.  This year the kale has been so successful that for now, at least, I’ve decided I can afford to share a few leaves with hungry little caterpillars.

Butterflies, like many other insects, are being threatened by climate change and habitat loss.  The recent wet summers have been particularly hard for them as they fail to feed and breed well.  Overly hot and dry summers can also pose problems as food plants such as nettles lose their moisture content.  Some butterfly species are combating climate change by migrating.  The migratory option is only feasible however if the butterfly is not trapped on a ’habitat island’.  Without adequate food sources beyond the current habitat migration is impossible and the species may be lost.

I am woefully ignorant about butterflies on the whole and I must say I’ve only ever paid attention to them in the most generic sense, a sort of, ‘Oh look, aren’t all these fluttery things pretty?!’  So in between the showers this week I decided to set off with my usual photographic incompetence and somewhat sketchy knowledge of natural history in search of butterflies.

I think I did quite well by my standards and so I have lots of lovely butterfly pics to share with you.  They were all taken within half an hours walk of the house, as usual please feel free to put me right if I’ve identified them incorrectly. The comma butterfly below is a bit of a cheat because I found it on the buddleia in the garden.  Still I can’t think of a better reason for wanting to plant one of these butterfly magnets.

comma butterfly at sustainable living project  Next on parade is this lovely speckled wood bathing in the sunshine on an alder leaf.

speckled wood butterfly at sustainable living project I had some difficulty identifying this one but I think it is a small heath sharing a thistle with a rather lonely looking soldier beetle, I normally only ever see them in mating pairs!

small heath butterfly on thistle

I was glad to see quite a few tortoise shell butterflies on my walks.  Their numbers in 2008 dropped by 45% from 2007.  They are facing the extra threat of a parasitic fly called Sturmia Bella.  It destroys the emerging chrysalis in the most grotesque manner.  Caterpillars feed on the fly eggs, these then are incubated inside the caterpillar and burst out just as the chrysalis is about to complete its transformation into a butterfly.

tortoise shell on the rail track

The rail track at the back of the house is awash with devil’s-bit scabious, harebells and knapweed right now.  I can only describe to you how beautiful the spectrum of violet blues look, I can’t seem to capture it on camera.  The large white butterflies were in plenty of evidence all over them.

large white on scabious

Gate Keeper butterflies were also numerous on the track, they were really hard to capture, none of them would stay still.  I almost gave up but just towards the end of my walk I found this willing poser!

gate keeper behaving

The last of my butterflies is a painted lady.

painted lady butterfly at sustainable living project

And finally, just one more I promise, a mystery moth who keeps sociable hours.  I don’t know what it is, if you know please let me know.

mystery moth!

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