As the year progresses we see a notable change in the butterflies that visit the garden. Early in the year I posted a selection of pictures from July but whilst the ‘whites’ continue to flutter around the flowers there are a number of others that I have captured with the camera during September. Here are my ‘Six on Saturday’ for this week
One: Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)
Normally the Small Tortoiseshell is very common in the garden always gracing the buddleja. This year however we have seen very few and only in the last few weeks have we seen a couple enjoying the pink Phuopsis stylosa blooming for a second time this year.
The Small Tortoiseshell can spend the winter hibernating as an adult.² Hibernating with their jagged wings closed shut they are well camouflaged looking just like a dead leaf.
The caterpillars feed on nettle (Urtica dioica).
Two: Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui)
The painted lady is a migrant species to the British Isles coming from North Africa and southern europe each year. It is reported to have a worldwide distribution existing almost everywhere accept South America. ¹ In his charming book, “The Butterfly Isles”, Patrick Barkham reported seeing swarming of these migrating butterflies in 2009. ²
The caterpillar feeds on thistles (Cardus), burdock (Arctium) and other plants. ¹
Three: Small White (possible – rather than Large White!) (Pieris rapae)
The ‘whites’ have to be included here simply because they enjoy the garden throughout the summer and are still present into the late summer. Although clearly a bit of a pest in the vegetable garden I do love to watch them on a still summer day working their way around the flower beds.
I am certainly not an expert at distinguishing between the various white butterflies but there is a very helpful guide on the Butterfly Conservation website ³. The caterpillars feed on Brassica species along with the wonderfully fragrant mignonette (Reseda) and nasturtium (Tropaeolum). ¹ This adult is soaking up the late evening sunshine on the hornbeam hedge.
Four: Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
As with the Small Tortoiseshell this is usually a common butterfly in the garden but this year we have seen very few. Possibly the long cold winter took its toll on the overwintering butterflies and hopefully they will get a chance to recover their numbers this year.
The Red Admiral’s are interesting to watch when you sit out with a glass of wine on a summer evening. If you sit in their perching spot they will continually pester you until you move.
According to David Carter ¹ the Red Admiral is a migrant species with the first butterflies arriving in Britain during the spring but does not normally survive the winter. However Patrick Barkham ² indicates that the Red Admiral is one species that is already a beneficiary of climate change as it can now increasingly survive the winter in southern England where it once perished.
The caterpillar feeds on nettles (Urtica).
Five: Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
I have written a longer piece on these but they have increased in number over the last few weeks and have emerged from the woodland edge into the rest of the garden. They seem to particularly like sunning themselves on the large leaves of the grape vines.
The caterpillars feed on various grasses such as couch grass (Agropyron repens) and cock’s foot (Dactylis glomerata). ¹
Six: Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
This is such a small but beautifully formed butterfly. It seems to particularly like the bed with the late summer asters and perennial rudbeckias.
The Small Copper is a species of meadows, hedgerows, roadsides and downlands and enjoys a similar habitat to the Meadow Brown, Hedge Brown (Gatekeeper), Orange-Tip and various blues. The Small Copper caterpillar feeds on various species of dock and sorrel (Rumex) and also knotgrass (Polygonum). ¹
For the record we have also seen a smallish blue butterfly around the garden but I have not yet had a chance to capture it on camera and identify it precisely.
The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.
¹ “Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe” by David Carter (ISBN: 0 330 26642 X)
² “The Butterfly Isles” by Patrick Barkham (ISBN 978-1-84708-127-8)