Friday, 15 July 2011

Butterflies at Hidcote

This year I’m rearing my own butterflies at the garden, in a project aiming to encourage our visitors to plant more butterfly friendly species in their own garden! This is taking place in one of the gazebos atop the Red Border steps (probably best seen during sunset) using strictly native species of butterfly known to be already active at Hidcote; Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell & Red Admiral. The whole thing is visible to visitors, with some information boards indicating what the blazes is going on and what plants might be worth planting, i.e. Buddleia, Scabious, etc. The butterfly life cycle starts with tiny eggs that hatch out into miniscule caterpillars (larvae), which then feed voraciously on their chosen food plant! For all of the above species, Urtica dioica (the Stinging Nettle) is the preferred menu, which is then chomped through at a rate of knots. Four moults then take place, with the larvae shedding its previous skin and getting larger each time. After about three weeks of gorging themselves they crawl off from the other caterpillars and find a quiet corner to settle down and begin pupation, which again can last about three weeks depending on temperature. At this point the beastie becomes a beauty, with a living soup of caterpillar cells inside the pupa case reforming as butterfly cells. This miraculous occurrence ends with them breaking out from the pupa, and spending about two hours unfurling and pumping up their new wings. At this stage the wings are actually still wet, and a splash of excess dye can be seen underneath each new butterfly! Then we release them into the garden, to the delight of myself and the assembled visitors, hopefully for them to go on and indulge in a bit of hanky panky and do their bit for the local population numbers!

Gazebo converted to butterfly house

Comma caterpillars

Netting prevents parasitic wasps turning up and spoiling the party

Peacock pupae

A peacock butterfly just emerged, wings still curled up

Wings still wet

Just prior to release into the garden and the first flight

This weekend the Big Butterfly Count begins, lasting from 16th July to the 31st. This worthwhile cause involves counting butterflies for 15 minutes and submitting your observations online. Please, see here, for more information!


mark said...

Oi, I ve attempted to start a blog, its a bit rough at present, how do you edit the profile page, i want to make my 'bloody weeds photo more centered and smaller etc?????????

Elephant's Eye said...

Bertie - thanks for the just emerged with crumpled wings photo. I used to find dragonflies looking like that and was worried about them. Patience is the answer.

Pauline said...

What a wonderful post Bertie, fascinating reading about your butterflies, good for you ! Was amazed to see that at the pupa stage, they looked just like the nettle leaves, isn't nature wonderful !

Bertie Bainbridge said...

Diana my reaction was similar when I first saw the crumpled wings, but thankfully this chap opened up and then flew off in fine style!


Bertie Bainbridge said...

Pauline it certainly is!


Laura @ Patiopatch said...

Hi Bertie - a wonderful, worthwhile project indeed, beautifully captured too. How did you stock this?

Bertie Bainbridge said...

Laura a company called Worldwide Butterflies sell eggs and larvae of both native and tropical species. Their website is


Elephant's Eye said...

BTW you have been tweeted for this post. Go Bertie!

Bertie Bainbridge said...

Excellent news Diana!

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