Sunday, 5 August 2012

Butterflies at Hidcote

As has been well documented in the press, this year the old butterflies have been dealt a rather rough hand! The relentless wet weather is simply not to their taste, with heavy downpours disrupting their life cycle and in extreme cases killing them. In spite of this my butterfly project is back on this year, raising native species for release into the garden. Some details of last year’s antics and the miraculous transformation that the caterpillars undergo can be found here! Let us all just hope that the chaps we launch this summer will find a break in the clouds to go on and boost the failing populations. This year I am raising Comma, Brimstone and Peacock butterflies, and also branching out with Vapourer and Elephant-Hawk moths! The latter are still quite small, but I will be sure to provide photographic proof of them later on. Quite a spectacle, I must say!
The Elephant Hawk Moth eggs are competitively rather large, indicative of the caterpillars that follow!

Vapourer Moth eggs are laid by the female who will not travel much farther than the leaf she hatches on. The male locates her position by the pheromones she emits, and after mating she immediately lays eggs and dies. A brief, but one might say crucial contribution

The distinctively attired Comma larva

Peacock caterpillars are a rowdy bunch, often seen feeding prominently en masse

The pupae of the Peacock is considerably less conspicuous

The wings of the new butterfly are still wet after pupation, so these dramatic splashes of dye can often be seen on leaves beneath the pupa

First the caterpillar finds a suitable position in which to settle, and anchors itself to the surroundings with delicate webbing. This is a Brimstone here, notable for being incredibly well camouflaged amongst the leaves of the Buckthorn

Then the caterpillar transforms into a pupa to complete the miracle that is metamorphosis!

Netting protects the larvae from merciless devils such as birds, wasps and parasitic flies!  It also stops them sneaking off unannounced, as these caterpillar blighters are nomadic so-and-so’s and you have to keep an eye on them

A freshly emerged Brimstone!
A brief interlude here, as I am just leaving to complete a placement at Gravetye Manor in East Sussex. Cheerio!


Greenorchid said...

Fantastic post Bertie... many thanks!
I'm a newbie when it comes to butterflies. I've left nettles for them here in my garden and allotment... when will it be save to cut them? and what other plants do they like to lay on?

Wife, Mother, Gardener said...

Looking forward to seeing more of your butterflies! Enjoy Gravetye! How fun to visit in the midst of its restoration.

Prue said...

Great post and pictures Bertie. Enjoy your placement in East Sussex!

Rob Stevens said...

That looks fantastic. I eagerly await the results, particularly of the Elephant Hawk Moth!

Annie said...

Excellent post and photographs!

Bertie Bainbridge said...

Many thanks all! Happy to report considerably more butterflies around the place these past few days.

Bethany said...

Just lovely! Glad I found your blog - love the photos, look forward to coming back for more :)

The Green Lady said...

What a wonderful thing to do. We brought home some caterpillars from the allotment that were eating my kale for my son to look after. A really horrible thing happened. I noticed lots of tiny caterpillars attached to them eating them! I wondered if it was their own young?! If you have any idea what happened I'd love to know as I'm really reluctant to look after caterpillars again!

waterfall construction southampton said...

Such a lovely and outstanding photograph of moths and their lifetime.

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