It’s nearly three years since I last saw a mint moth in the garden. It doesn’t mean they’ve not been around, they’re just so small (under 2 cm) and fleeting. This one was in a similar place, on a forget-me-not flower by a patch of oregano, which they’re said to like as well as mint.
These moths fly by day, as well as by night. Seen close up they have an amazingly furry body. This is probably the first of two breeds within the year in England.
This was a telephoto shot, whereas my previous post used the camera’s macro facility and is slightly sharper.
As coronavirus gradually reduced our horizons during our recent stay in Houston, it was surprising how many insects one came across in the garden. Surprising because continuous chemical warfare is waged against termites and cockroaches, which would both soon become very widespread without it.
The presence of lizards and birds, such as cardinal, mocking bird and blue jay, does suggest that there are insects around, and if you go in the summer there will be mosquitoes due to large amounts of standing water. Fortunately these were not significantly around during our recent visit. We did see odd cockroaches, the great survivors, but these are not my favourite photographic subjects.
Bees were around on emerging spring flowers, but my two best pictures were of a monarch butterfly and a colourful paper wasp(?).
Buddleia is often called the ‘butterfly bush’, and ours has lived up to its name this summer. This has been a good summer for butterflies compared to recent years, but the numbers are still much less than in some summers of memory.
Peacock butterflies have been particularly evident, with their strikingly attractive mock eyes.
Painted lady butterflies are sometime migrants to the UK. We’ve seen a lot this year, so this must be a bumper year when they come here in large numbers.
These painted ladies were around thistles on local farmland. They have a certain faded grandeur, compared to the vibrant colors of the young, but this is maybe not too surprising considering the long migration.
There seem to have been quite a lot of orange tip butterflies around the last few weeks, some looking really fresh like this one. Unusually, it paused awhile in the sun with wings open, allowing a few quick shots before normal fluttering was resumed.
According to Wikipedia, orange tips are appearing earlier in the spring, and this must be a male, as “the more reclusive female… lacks the orange and is often mistaken for other species of butterfly”.
Strangely, the usually infallible autofocus on my Panasonic TZ200 does not appear to have got anything completely sharp, and that’s the same on several shots, so is probably not due to hand movement. Maybe there was just too much detail at different distances and differing illuminations in the strong sunlight (featured image shows how much was in shot).
This clouded yellow butterfly kindly stopped by for a photograph as we were exploring an old film set at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. These are of the genus colias, of which there are many variants. They are apparently called ‘sulphurs’ in North America.
You can see the apparent shading on the wings, where the strong dark outer colouring on the top of the wings shows through. A web search shows that these butterflies are not often caught with their wings open to reveal the upper side. Here’s an example male (upper) and female from Wikipedia. We can infer that mine is a male.
It’s but a memory now, but last week was very cold but sunny at the extensive Slapton Ley NNR in South Devon. These butterflies gave a first taste of the warmer weather that is now with us.
First a rather battered looking peacock, which had probably been tempted out by a sunny day after overwintering. Then a very fresh looking green veined white, and finally what is probably a small white, although there appear to be no black spots on the wings?
The photographs could be sharper but these butterflies were not very cooperative.
The relative proliferation of wildlife at these nature reserves shows just how important they are, and suggest that we need many more to ensure the preservation of these and other species.
As its name suggests, the speckled wood butterfly is often found near woodland. There are nice patterns on the wings and an unusual glint in six apparent eyes on the wings. These butterflies are much more prevalent in the Dordogne area of France than in Cheshire UK, probably because of the much greater tree cover.
Photograph taken in the Dordogne region of France, September 2017
There is increasing awareness across environmental organisations that the problems they are each individually trying to address are all in fact interrelated. Insects, birds, bees, butterflies, hedgerows, trees, etc etc. The whole web of life is under increasing pressure, both in the UK and across the world. And that is before the increasing effects of the ongoing global warming.
On land, trees and hedgerows pay a major role in maintaining a varied ecosystem and support for all these other species. So it is great to see all these organisations in the UK getting together to produce the Tree Charter.
I won’t try to summarise the charter here. A big highlight for me is the maintaining and creating of routes to ensure the interconnectivity of wildlife. Islands of protection surrounded by development are inevitably at risk as their diversity easily comes under pressure. Hedgerows and stands of trees can thus provide vital links between forested areas. And the islands need to get bigger than they are at present in the UK.
If this charter from hereon provided the guiding principles that all government agencies and business organisations work to, we can begin to reverse the downward trends and safeguard our natural environment for future generations.
In my experience blue butterflies in Britain are fast moving and rarely settle on anything for long. Also, they have that uncanny knack shared with many birds – they take off just as the camera has focused and the shutter is about to be pressed, leaving you with a blurred image or a great shot of the flower or twig where they were. (Perhaps they really are clued into our intentions.)
So I was delighted when this male common blue stayed still just long enough to be photographed with my camera in telephoto mode, last weekend at Anderton Country Park. There are plenty of areas of grassland in this park, providing ideal habitat.
Here’s a higher resolution of the shot, demonstrating how pretty and furry this butterfly is.
Just near the mint moth, there was a similarly sized butterfly on the Buddleia, which turned out to be a Small Skipper. These are so small that you don’t tend to take as much notice as with the larger butterflies, but they are also attractive with beautifully veined wings, furry body and striped antennae.
According to Butterfly Conservation, the Small Skipper is increasingly seen in the north of England, probably due to the warming climate. Also, it likes long grass, so it may be no coincidence that we have left a wild patch and shaggy edges in the lawn this summer – supporting the view that shaggy gardens encourage wildlife!
The photos were the best I could manage with my Panasonic TZ80 in macro mode.
During this variable English summer weather, those days when the sun really comes out have been accompanied by the appearance in the garden of bees, hoverflies and a varied smattering of butterflies, usually the odd one or two, compared to the larger numbers within fairly recent memory.
The sharp eyes of granddaughter were the first to spot this pretty little insect, less than a centimetre across. Assisted by my Panasonic TZ80 macro facility, the photo shows just how pretty it was, and enabled identification as a mint moth – not actually a butterfly.
Mint moths are said to frequent mint and oregano plants, which was precisely where this one and several others appeared. It’s also a day flier as well as a night flyer.
Just goes to show that it’s well worth looking at the tiny flutterers, as well as the more obvious large ones.