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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Late summer butterflies

About mid August all those many and varied butterflies I was seeing around the place seemed to dwindle somewhat, to be replaced by far too many 'Cabbage Whites'. For us here in Europe that means both Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Small White (Pieris rapae), and to a lesser extent, the Green Veined White (Pieris napi). I'm not sure that the latter are a real pest for brassicas (cabbage family) but I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the caterpillars of these and the Small White, as they are both plain and green. Of course the White explosion coincided with me sowing and growing my brassicas!

However I've still seen a few goodies here and there and in the last week or so it seems like the Whites' numbers have reduced, and suddenly we have a great wave of Peacock butterflies which although common, are so colourful they are always a delight to see. I'm also starting to see more of the usual autumn species such as Red Admirals and Commas.

The Whites have been so numerous that I've literally been swatting the darn things away as I was trying to flick their eggs off my baby kale and PSB! Since planting it out I've watched them lay eggs on it, and not just that, also on my rocket which I have to check when I pick it. They've also been quite promiscuous and I've found them mating all over the place too. I just wish I could get to see all this action with other species!

Cheeky Small White laying eggs on my purple sprouting brocolli!
At least they only lay single eggs.

Multiple eggs laid by the Large White butterfly -
this is on a rocket leaf. No I didn't eat it!

When those ones hatch out you get an invasion as shown on this nasturtium, which they are
welcome to munch. It's grown partially to help keep the caterpillars away from the brassicas,
but also because they are pretty!

There are predators of course, just as there are parasitic wasps which will lay their eggs inside the caterpillars. I didn't interfere when my OH yelled to tell me that a spider had captured a butterfly, just ran for my camera. Below is a female Large White that has been caught in a web, and I may have felt tempted to help had it been a more unusual species of butterfly, but really why should I deprive the spider of a meal? If you want to see more pictures of this spider and the butterfly, I've put the rest of the photos into a little album on Picasaweb here. I know that not everyone wants to see the gruesome stuff and/or spiders though!

Large White (Pieris brassicae) caught by a Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus).

OK moving swiftly on to prettier pictures! At the time of taking these photos I thought this was a Small Copper and was just taking a few pictures because it was the first one I'd seen in my garden this year. Luckily I checked in my butterfly book and was was really pleased to find that it was actually the far more unusual Sooty Copper, that I'd encountered for the first time on my Butterfly Walk last month. What I'd seen then though was the male, and this is the female, so I'm happy that I've seen both of them as they are quite different in colouring.

A female Sooty Copper (Lycaena tityrus).

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) - the only one I've seen in my
garden this year, although I saw plenty on the coast at the Pointe du Grouin!

Map butterfly (Araschnia levana) - I've seen precisely three this year.

It seems like the Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) left on our last hot day!
Couldn't resist adding this picture of one in the veg patch with leeks in the background.

To be replaced by the equally stunning Peacocks (Inachis io)...

... and Commas (Polygonia c-album).

I'll finish off with a Small Copper that I saw yesterday. Looking back through last year's photos, I didn't even begin to see them until September and they were around through most of October, so there's plenty still to look forward to on the butterfly front. Not to mention sunshine and warmth coming back for a whole week, according to the weather forecasts. I'm going to make the most of it!

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) on Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.


  1. Looks like a big meal for that spider. Your butterfly photos are stunning... I love the painted lady!

    1. Thanks very much Miss Lady Bug! I think the butterfly probably wasn't such a big meal if you take away the wings! :-)

    2. The wings must be a protein appetizer :) Enjoy all your lovelies!

    3. Dearest Mandy.... Sorry for the removal comments, I just found typos -yikes! You are going get a kick out of this post, I hope! I had this dream..haha... I dreamt that my girlfriends and I were visiting Chateau Moorhen... I know, funny right?? Is that too much google time? We were treated like royalty with you giving us choices of these amazing rooms. The funny thing... was you had all these exotic (African) animals running around which scared us! But we still thought it was cool! OMG I know that's funny, but thought you might enjoy the cookiness. Is Google+ infiltrating my sleep???

      One funny point - In my dream, you had a HUGE TV screen that covered an entire wall... my husband said to ask you if you really had that... If so, he might be really freaked out... haha!! Say yes! :)

    4. Oh Miss Lady Bug you are so funny! OMG, fancy dreaming about me! Well what can I say, I am just pleased that I treated you so well and gave you all fancy rooms but I'm sorry about the lions and tigers running through the house! :-)

      You can say yes to your husband but actually, no! Guess what, we don't even have a flat screen TV because our about 15 year old early wide screen Sony is so well made that it is still going strong, and I refuse to waste money buying a modern HD digital all singing all dancing TV when it is still working fine. :-)

    5. I'm glad you have a great sense of humor! :)

  2. Wonderful! So happy to see all the gorgeous species and even a little sadness :-) I've been so butterfly deprived this year!

    1. Thanks Marianne. I'm sorry you didn't have so many butterflies this year. Here's hoping you have a fabulous butterfly year next year! Right now they are just everywhere (mostly Peacocks) and it's quite a sight to see!

  3. Chateaua Moorhen 20 - Lamancha 2. Game over. ;-)

    Lovely pictures Mandy. Commas pic is especially good.

    1. Strange, my comment screen has changed. Yeah sorry Nick. Have yet another lifer to share now.....I think I've lost count of all the new species I've seen this year! Thanks very much!