These last few weeks of warm, sunny weather have brought out many of our native butterflies and they have been delightful! The Holly Blue is the first of the British blues to emerge from overwintering pupae in the Spring generation. They stay high in the trees most of the time and you have the best chance of seeing them near holly trees, where this generation will lay their eggs. The late Summer generation, hatched from these larvae will, in turn, lay their eggs on the ivy to complete this wonderful cycle! I finally managed to get close to one as it sunned itself, lower down on brambles, at Dapdune Wharf on the Wey Navigation in Guildford. It refused to open those beautiful, little wings but you can still see the silvery-blue of the undersides.
This is a female Holly Blue butterfly that I spotted yesterday, the final day of The Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation UK. The black on the tips of the upper-wing distinguishes it from the male. I knew it was female, even before I got a decent look at the partly open wings, as it was laying eggs near the flower buds of the ivy that was growing thickly through the beech hedge! There are two broods of this butterfly seen through the course of the year. The spring generation converge around holly trees and shrubs on which their larvae will feed. They will pupate and emerge as adults in late summer when they will then be seen congregating around ivy, on which they will lay their eggs. The larvae of the summer brood will pupate and overwinter in the ivy, emerging as early as the first week of April the following year.
There are two dialogues occurring from these photos. The first is to do with names and life-cycle. The caterpillar of the Large White feeds on all types of brassica leaf, giving this butterfly its common name, the Cabbage White! The second is more subtle, the colours of the cabbage are a good match for the out-of-focus, background colours of the butterfly image.
Whilst on a family day out at Newlands Corner, a beauty spot with wonderful views, in the Surrey Hills, I went butterfly chasing. I thought I’d spotted a skipper so I tried to weave my way through the brambles and nettles to get a photo. What I saw had me quite perplexed as it clearly had markings that I didn’t recognise for a skipper but was the same shape and size. I managed to get a few photos of several of them flitting among the brambles and wildflowers.
When I got home and onto the computer, I brought up the UK Butterfly and moth identification guides and got to work. It didn’t match any of the skippers, coppers or fritillaries so on the off-chance I went over to moths.
The result was thoroughly unexpected! I’ve never seen one of these little beauties before but it is, indeed, one of our day-flying moths! It’s called a Speckled Yellow, scientific name: Pseudopanthera macularia. I hope you’ll agree that it really is a little gem 🙂