For a couple of weeks I have been wondering where the butterflies have gone. But I think I wonder this every year. It is not until the buddleia comes out that we really see them in great numbers.
They are skittish creatures. Not only do butterflies flutter by, but they also dip up and down alarmingly. You would not want to be a passenger.
I stood by the buddleia for about five minutes with camera poised, but every time a cabbage white came dipping along, it bypassed the buddleia and went off to find a way in to the brassica cage.
So I gave it up and wandered over to the cutting patch. As I was standing there, this chap came bobbing along.
Coming in to land…
He docked. He steadied himself…
Extracting nectar. Oh my goodness, but look at that fluffy head!
In fact, look at the fur on his wings!
He has a sort of bone structure in his wings, which looks like a spider’s web a the edge.
Does he have eye-brows?
And after a good long drink, he was off again. Intoxicated, and therefore veering and careering wildly around the garden.
My little foray into lepitoptery suggests that this is a ‘Gatekeeper’ or ‘Hedge Brown’, Pyronia tithonus.
They belong to the family of brown butterflies, the Satyridae, which all have ‘eyes’ on the wings, to look like larger animals. I’m guessing this accounts for the brown fur too.
Males have scent scales in the middle of the wing! Who knew butterflies wore aftershave?
In my reading explorations I have also learnt that:
- The distinction between a moth and a butterfly is artificial. It is based on observation, but with no scientific basis.
- Some moth species differ as much from one another as they do from butterflies.
- There are around 25,000 known butterfly species and over 120,000 moth species!
- Butterflies are generally day-flying, whilst moths are generally night-flying.
- Butterflies are generally brighter (the Burnet Moth and Cinnabar Moth being exceptions I have seen recently).
- Butterflies generally rest with their wings together.
- Moths either rest with their wings flat, or in a roof over their body.
- Butterflies have clubbed antennae. Most moth antennae are hairy or feathery.
- Butterflies court initially by dancing, but scent comes into play in the later stages (!) Moths rely entirely on scent.
- Butterflies have specific plants where they like to lay their eggs. Hence ‘Cabbage White’.
- A typical caterpillar moults three or four times before turning into a chrysalis or pupa.
So that was my little bit of excitement for the day.