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Posts tagged ‘Butterflies’

Our smallest resident butterfly

Small Blue butterfly, Cupido minimus, male

Cupido minimus – male

The Small Blue Cupido minimus is the UK’s smallest resident butterfly. Females are chocolate brown whilst males, like the one pictured above photographed recently at Martin Down, have a silvery-blue dusting of scales near the base of the wings. The sole food plant is Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria and so it is reliant on the type of grassland habitat where this plant can flourish. It favours areas with broken ground.

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Swallowtail

European Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio machaon

Papilio machaon

I’m back from Cyprus now but while I was there this was one of the butterflies I was keen to photograph, the  European Swallowtail Papilio machaon. This is the subspecies syriacus. I was lucky enough to get this shot early one morning while walking along the cliffs of Kapparis. The colour of the grass in the background will give you some idea of how hot it was.

We get them here in England and I’ve previously written about them in a post about one I photographed in Kefalonia here but our native subspecies britannicus remains a rarity and is confined to the fens of east Norfolk.

However, in some years we do get a few migrants from the continent. This subspecies gorganus is less fussy and will use many kinds of Umbellifer, such as Wild Carrot daucus carota, as the larval food plant. In 2013 there were many sightings in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent including some evidence of egg-laying. In April 2014 a specimen was photographed near Winchester, Hampshire which suggests that some specimens may have successfully over-wintered. More info here.

So the continental species may well become more common in future.

Seen your first butterfly yet?

Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta

Vanessa atalanta

As I left the office for lunch the other day (Wednesday 28 January) I saw my first butterfly of 2015, a rather tatty Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta similar to this one I photographed last year. This took me by surprise momentarily as it was quite a cold day. It was fluttering around inside the glass canopy that covers the Holly-lined pathway that leads to the entrance of the building and that I suspect was the reason. The combination of the low winter sun and the shelter from the icy wind had warmed it sufficiently to have woken it from its slumber.

The Red Admiral is predominantly a summer migrant that most often arrives in the UK in May and June but a small population do overwinter in the south of Britain and therefore this butterfly is also considered a resident. Unfortunately this hibernation strategy is a risk as many individuals will not survive our winter unless conditions are mild.

However, global warming may help it to become more firmly established as a resident species in the future.

Have you seen your first butterfly of 2015 yet?

 

Milk or dark chocolate?

Ringlet, aphantopus hyperantus, female

Aphantopus hyperantus – female

Here’s another photograph from back in July, again from Morgans Hill. This time it’s the Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus.

This example is in full sun and therefore appears to be a rather pale brown, but at least that allows you to see the detail. The plumper body suggests this may be a female. However, when freshly emerged the colour is a much darker, velvety chocolate, verging on almost black in some instances. You can get a flavour of this in the example below that I photographed in July 2012 which I’m guessing may be a male. And a very handsome butterfly it is too with the contrast of the delicate white lace-like fringes to the wing edges.

Note the variation in the spots which are much more prominent on the specimen above.

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Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper, thymelicus lineola, female

Thymelicus lineola – female

Here’s a photo from Morgans Hill that I took back in July of a female Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola. Followers in North America may recognise this butterfly as the European Skipper. It closely resembles our Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris which it is often found in company with, but that species lacks the black tips to its antenna.

Because of the similarities, it is often under-recorded and for this reason was not recognised as a separate species until 1889. As such it was the last British resident species to be described.

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Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria, male

Pararge aegeria – male

The Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria seems to be having a good year in Wiltshire. Whenever I’ve ventured near a patch of sun dappled woodland it’s magically appeared. Darting out to give me the once over before spiralling skywards for a honeydew top-up or returning to a favourite perch to soak up just a little more sunshine.

It’s always a welcome sight in my eyes but these adults will soon be gone as Autumn’s chill is upon us. This one looks to be a male.

It’s unusual as it is the only butterfly in Britain that can survive the winter as either a larva (caterpillar) or a pupa (chrysalis) before emerging again in the spring next year. Although it’s believed the caterpillars need to have reached their third instar (moult).

Get out and enjoy them while you still can.

Brimstone

Brimstone butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni, male

Gonepteryx rhamni, male

I’ve been chatting to Michael Marlow via email about insects and macro photography. I explained that the majority of my photographs are essentially record shots and that I rarely take more artistic photos. But here’s an exception, a photo of a male Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni nectaring on Devils-bit Scabious and here’s another from a post last year.

I guess what’s probably most surprising about that statement is the fact that I am an artist or designer of sorts, albeit primarily a graphic artist and illustrator by profession. However, I have dabbled more seriously on the fine-art side of things and in this I was much encouraged by my late father-in-law, Gerard Lumley or Marcel Zouf as he liked to be known when working as an artist. He’s much missed.

For me though the fine-art path to be a serious painter led to nothing but trouble. Dilettantism, depression, and ultimately divorce. Well there’s only so much narcissistic self-destruction a relationship can take. Fortunately none of my paintings survive. I’ve rarely picked up a pencil or brush in the last 12 years but maybe my interest in insects will inspire me to start drawing again and who knows you might even get to see a doodle or sketch on this blog.

Incidentally, Michael’s just written an excellent series of articles about the reverse-lens method and diffused-flash on his excellent blog BugPhoto.net which I can highly recommend.

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue butterfly, polyommatus bellargus, male

Polyommatus bellargus – male

The photo above of a second generation Adonis Blue Polyommatus bellargus taken at Martin Down in Hampshire shows the typical chequered fringe of the male. This is a butterfly which can only be confused with the male Common Blue Polyommatus icarus but in comparison that has a plain fringe as can be seen here. In my opinion the Adonis Blue is bluer, less purpley and the colour is rather more dense. I’ve found that the wings of the common blue are slightly translucent, so depending on the light, the spots and markings on the underwings can often just show through. You may just about be able to make this out depending on the quality of your monitor.

Adonis in Greek mythology, is the male god of beauty. This is certainly a handsome butterfly, arguably the most attractive of the British blues.

What do you think? Feel free to add your comments below.

Southern belle

Southern comma butterfly, Polygonia egea

Polygonia egea

Following on from my last butterfly post from Kefalonia.

Walking through the village of Assos a new butterfly species introduced itself to me, the Southern Comma Polygonia egea. A paler, less heavily marked (but perhaps slightly brighter orange) version of our native Comma Polygonia c-album. For a comparison see my previous posts a female comma and spiced orange.

Well it certainly liked the heat, happily basking in the full afternoon sun. Usually on the tarmac or on the whitewashed walls, like the one pictured here, caught between the shadows. I noticed that the underside was slightly paler and less cryptically marked than our indigenous species and the characteristic white marking on the underwing was more silvery and less like a comma and more like a squashed letter ‘Y’.

 

Maera, the dog star

Large Wall butterfly, Lasiommata maera – male

Lasiommata maera – male

While I was looking through my photos of Wall Brown butterflies from Kefalonia for my previous post The megera I noticed that one of them looked slightly different. As you can see this one is distinctly darker and less heavily marked and so at first I thought it might be an aberration. But then it occurred to me that it might actually be another species. I was right, it’s the Large Wall Brown Lasiommata maera a male in this instance and a new species for me. I must admit I hadn’t really noticed when I took the photo. But even if I had, minus my reference books and with no internet it would have been difficult to get confirmation.

Interestingly in this species it is the female that is the more colourful of the two. See more pictures here at Matt Rowlings informative website http://www.eurobutterflies.com

But this is a species that has been seen in Britain, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire but not since 1931 and even then it is suspected these were an accidental introduction.

In Greek mythology Maera was the hound of Erigone, daughter of Icarus, who after death was turned into the dog star, Procyon which is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor.