Coming in to land…

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…


Engaging proboscis…


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.

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors.

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Robyn Haynes says:

    A very informative post. I didn’t know that butterflies and moths were not distinct species. I love your photography – great shots Ali.

  2. shazza says:

    What wonderful shots! I expect your garden is quite a haven for butterflies and other insects. There is probably a vast population in your garden metropolis. 🙂 x

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, I’m trying to get to know them!

  3. Heyjude says:

    An excellent capture Ali. I spotted a brown one yesterday, but it wouldn’t open its wings for me so I am not sure what kind. My photo is nowhere near as clear as yours though. I am waiting for the butterflies to descend on my Hemp Agrimony as it is about to open. They usually flock to it. So far this year I have seen the “Cabbage Whites” and two Red Admirals. That’s pretty poor going but I suspect the cold spring has a lot to do with it.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, we have had a lot of cabbage whites, the odd Red Admiral, and lots of browns. I don’t think I’ve seen a painted lady or peacock…

  4. bcparkison says:

    We all enjoying your new found photos of up close. Beautiful. Now…where I wonder are my butterflies. I haven’t seen many lately too. Could it be too hot?

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, maybe that’s it? And dry?

  5. Wonderful! I was clearly clueless before! Great pics ❤️

  6. Sam says:

    All the butterflies are here in my garden! 🙂

  7. Emma Cownie says:

    Very interesting – I have seen more butterflies than ever this summer – I think the sun brings them out.

  8. Macro lenses really help getting a closer and much more detailed look at details all around us. Your photos and spectacular garden always inspire me! I’ve been seeing more butterflies here as the weather has been getting hotter. Great post Ali!

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