The girls playing out on the cul de sac on a September evening were huddled together, excited. One of them had found this enormous caterpillar crossing the road – around two inches long. it was the biggest caterpillar any of us had ever seen, even the parents.
What on earth was it? It took some time to identify as the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawkmoth, which received its name courtesy of the characteristics of its caterpillar phase. The fake eyes are said to frighten predators off.
This picture from Wikimedia Commons shows what the adult looks like.
Photo of adult elephant hawkmoth by Gail Hampshire, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s getting towards late summer in England,and the small tortoiseshell butterflies have arrived in our garden, at much the same time as they did last year. One sunny morning, the first after a period of rain, there were an incredible 12 basking on our awning and roof, probably newly hatched. They really are rather pretty butterflies.
The feeding proboscis is particularly evident in the following.
Click to see more detail.
Populations are said to be declining, possibly related to habitat loss, pesticides, global warming…
It’s been a bad summer for butterflies in England. Most common are the whites, small and large. Occasionally we come across the green veined white, seen here at the National Trust’s Hidcote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire. With wings spread out it is similar to the small white, but the underside shows clear green veins.
Hidcote also gave the bonus of a nice fresh peacock butterfly.
During a recent short, sun-blessed visit to the Wales/Shropshire/Cheshire border area near Whitchurch, we saw lots of gatekeeper butterflies. Although typified as ‘browns’, and with the alternative name of ‘hedge brown’, the upper wings include a colourful orange.
Gatekeepers are more typically associated with southern England, but their range is extending northward, no doubt related to climate change.
We haven’t seen many butterflies so far this summer, but there were plenty of these brown ringlets in the woodland during our recent visit to the National Trust’s Bodnant Garden, North Wales. Fortuitously, one paused on a neaby leaf allowing this shot.
The thistle patch featured a few days ago is already no longer, the flowers being replaced by fluffy seed balls like dandelion clocks. These pictures from that time, of small white butterflies click well with the colour of the thistle flowers. The first is an especially pleasing composition, to my eyes.
The (small and large) white butterflies were very common in my youth and a bit of a nuisance, with their caterpillars all over the brassica plants. Now they’re not so common, so seeing them is a bit more of an event, and photographing them more of a challenge.
The comma butterfly has a quite outrageous outline shape, supposedly helping as camouflage against a background of dead leaves. This was an occasional visitor to our garden, usually only seen on a few occasions during the summer.
You can’t see the comma that gives this butterfly its name from the top. For this you need to see the underside, as in this earlier post.
The colour match with the buddleia and phlox is not wonderful, but that’s where it deigned to linger…
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).