Six on Saturday – Summer Butterflies

It is not just the flowers that make the garden a beautiful place to be. Today is a scorcher. For me this simply means keeping cool with a long drink sitting in the shade of a large tree. The butterflies however love it and it is so lovely to feel that we have created an environment where they can flourish.

The weather this year seems to have been perfect for them giving us a large number of individuals and a great variety. Here are six that I have captured on camera in the last week or so.

One: Red Admiral

P1040508 Red Admiral

The Red Admiral is a migrant coming in waves from North Africa and continental Europe throughout the spring and summer. Increasingly however there are reports that it is over wintering here in the UK. The migrants lay eggs in the UK which subsequently produce a fresh new generation of butterflies.¹

In Britain and Ireland, the most important and widely available larval foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). However, Small Nettle (U. urens) and the related species, Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and Hop (Humulus lupulus) may also be used.¹

Two: Gatekeeper

P1040532 Gatekeeper

The Gatekeepers in our garden seem to be quite feisty little creatures and seem to spend a lot of time time chasing off other larger butterflies that come close. They like the same habitat as Ringlet and Meadow Brown butterflies which we also see in the garden and close by in the countryside.

The caterpillars feed on various grasses with a preference for fine grasses such as bents (Agrostis spp.), fescues (Festuca spp.), and meadow-grasses (Poa spp.). Common Couch (Elytrigia repens) is also used.¹ At least something is eating the couch!

Three: Small Tortoiseshell

P1020163 Small Tortoiseshell

A very common butterfly but no less beautiful for that. It has been rather scarce in our garden in recent years so I am delighted that it is back in some numbers this year. The caterpillars fee on common nettle (Urtica dioica) and small nettle (Urtica urens).¹

Four: Comma

P1040540 Comma

The Comma butterfly has very characteristic scalloped edges to its wings which allow the hibernating adults to be almost invisible amongst dead leaves.

The caterpillars’ most widely used foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Other species used include Hop (Humulus lupulus), elms (Ulmus spp.), currants (Ribes spp.), and Willows (Salix spp).¹

Five: Peacock

P1040542 Peacock

Another unmistakeable butterfly which loves the Lysimachia and Buddleias in the garden. We have huge numbers across the garden this year which is so lovely to see.

The caterpillars feed on Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), although eggs and larvae are occasionally reported on Small Nettle (U. urens) and Hop (Humulus lupulus).¹

Six: Silver-Washed Fritillary

P1040584 Silver-Washed Fritillary

This might be stretching the rules of this meme a little as this Silver-Washed Fritillary was not photographed in our garden but in nearby Hampton Wood. These are large woodland butterflies (wing-span c. 72-76mm). They do not sit still very long so I was delighted to get a chance to get this one in a sunny clearing. As they fly they flutter almost like tissue paper in the dappled sun of the woodland glade. The caterpillars main foodplant is Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) growing in shady or semi-shady positions on the woodland floor.¹ My next challenge is to entice them into our woodland garden.

Well that is it for this week. We share the garden with a host of other creatures and certainly my enjoyment of our garden is not all about the flowers. This post is a contribution to the Six on Saturday meme which is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

Further reading

¹ Butterfly Conservation Website – There is a wealth of information about all of these species on this website including further details of their lifecycle, when they fly and distribution maps across the UK.

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Marbled White Butterfly

A week or so back (26 June 2020) I was lucky enough to come across this beautiful Marbled White butterfly on a warm sunny morning whilst walking our springer spaniel in local fields.  It was warming itself in the sun and was kind enough to stay still long enough for me to catch this photograph.

The Marbled White butterfly usually flies from late June through to early September in areas of unimproved grassland ¹.  According to Patrick Barkham ² it is relatively common in midsummer woodland edges and rides in south-west England but rarely occurs in the east or north of the country.  The Marbled White ( Melanargia galathea ) is in the family Nymphalidae which includes the striking and often colourful  butterflies like Peacocks, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells.  The Marbled White is in a sub-family of the Nymphalidae call the Satyrinae which are commonly called the Browns.  The Marbled White is a Brown that is in fact white!

On the food plants for the caterpillars, Butterfly conservation ¹ state that “Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) is thought to be essential in the diet of larvae but Sheep’s-fescue (F. ovina), Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), and Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) are also eaten. It is thought that several other grasses may be used, but the full range is not known.

UK Distribution (live link to Butterfly Conservation Website)

Life Cycle (live link to Butterfly Conservation website)

Further reading

¹ Butterfly Conservation (butterfly-conservation.org)

² The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham (ISBN 978-1-84708-127-8)