Tag Archives: Aglais io

Interesting things you can do with a Butterfly

Butterflies are not just for looking at 🙂

This is a post for the friends that I have made in the last few months, friends who have never seen this blog in the summertime.

Winter is so difficult for nature bloggers, it’s a wonder that we post anything. There is a different world coming and it is beautiful.

Butterflies have been big in my world this weekend. On Saturday I discovered a beautiful Small Tortoiseshell overwintering in my flat.

Small Tortoiseshell

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day here and while I was out a Comma flew in front of me.

This isn’t the one that I saw yesterday, that was over a hedge and lost in a field almost as soon as I saw it. This is just a picture of another Comma.
CommaIt is still much too early for Butterflies, there are no nectar plants about yet but it is okay they will just go back to sleep for a bit.

The Butterflies will be here in four weeks. It isn’t very long to wait.

It is not very unusual to see Butterflies here in the winter. Whilst many species overwinter as Caterpillars or as a Chrysalis we have five local species that overwinter as adult butterflies and they can wake up and have a little fly around on any warm winters day.

The other three are: The Red Admiral.

Red Admiral

The Brimstone.BrimstoneThe Peacock.

Peacock Butterfly

So what can you do with Butterflies besides look at them?

You can abduct them and raise them as your own 🙂

The Small Tortoiseshell is probably the first one that you will find.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaThese are little yellow caterpillars that live in colonies on Stinging Nettles. If you want to try raising Butterflies in a different part of the world, pick a species that has an easy to obtain food plant, they eat a lot.

I made some mistakes when raising these and so I shall share the wisdom gained.

I chose large caterpillars, thinking that they would be quicker to raise than little ones. Most of my Caterpillars died and it wasn’t that much fun.

They died because they had already been attacked before I found them. In the wild there are a lot of insects that lay their eggs in Caterpillars and the larva grow inside and eat the Caterpillar.

This is a Tachinid fly injecting it’s eggs into a Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar.

Tachinid

Pelatachina tibialis, Nasty little beast.
Pelatachina tibialisSo I did successfully raise Small Tortoiseshells but it wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped. Lesson Learnt, I went out to collect some Peacock Larvae.

Take the smallest ones that you can find, the less time they have been in the wild the less chance that they will have been got at.

Peacocks are the little black ones that also live on Stinging Nettles.

Peacock LarvaI only took a few, I thought, it turned out that I had about forty in my little jar and from those I released thirty three Butterflies, many more than would have made it if I had left them in the wild.

Peacock LarvaNow you can buy Butterfly raising kits. I don’t really like these. The most common species is the Painted Lady and this is because the Painted Lady can eat artificial food. So you generally get five little Caterpillars in  a jar and the bottom of the jar is smeared with artificial food, there is a piece of paper under the lid for them to attach themselves to and the jar is otherwise empty.

This is a horrible way to raise Caterpillars, in an empty jar. It deprives them of their youth. I am going to show you that Caterpillars are lively, intelligent animals. They have a social structure and they get great joy from swinging about in the jungle that is their home.

This is how I am going to do it.

Make them a home.

Caterpillar HouseThe tray of mud is because the nettles will need water but I can’t put them in water or the Caterpillars will drown themselves.

Caterpillar House

Caterpillar HouseThat is it. You don’t really have to worry about the Caterpillars escaping, they will stay on the food plant so long as you keep them provided with fresh greens.

I admit, I came down one morning and found this.

Peacock LarvaWhat on earth is going on here?

We are going to join the circus.

You bloomin’ well are not!

They had plenty of leaves they just weren’t fresh enough for them. You do have to keep on top of them.

Most of the time they like to hang together.

Peacock LarvaAlthough you do get the odd little one that has a mind of it’s own.

Peacock LarvaThey grow very quickly and they moult their skin four times. Each time that they moult there is a bigger and more beautiful Caterpillar inside.

Peacock LarvaThose are not dead baby Caterpillars in the next picture, they are just the discarded skins. The little black spots are called frasse and they are Caterpillar poo. They eat a lot, so guess what else they do a lot 🙂

Peacock LarvaYou need to clean them out regularly as well as change their leaves.

Peacock Larva

Peacock LarvaIt won’t be long before you want to take these beautiful animals out for a photo shoot.

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock LarvaNow things are about to get interesting and we have a problem.

When they are in their final moult they will decide to leave the food plant. They are going to shed their skin one more time but this time there will be a chrysalis inside and so now they have done eating and they need to spread out.

My solution was to put them in my kitchen cupboard. (This might be a problem if you live with a partner)

Peacock Larva nest

Peacock LarvaMy clever little animals knew what was expected of them and they hung themselves all around their new home.

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Watch the Caterpillar shed it’s skin one last time. I have speeded this up X4 because the whole process took six minutes.

The Caterpillars now make themselves a little sticky pad of silk to hang from and the most critical moment of this final moult is the very last bit when the chrysalis must abandon it’s old skin and attach itself to the silk pad. That is what all the twisting at the end of this video is about.


What happens now is a miracle. The Caterpillar will completely dissolve inside it’s chrysalis, only a few cells remain and from these cells a Butterfly grows. Something really wonderful.

Peacock Chrysalis

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyThis next video is speeded up x2.


Now I just have to show you how to pick up a Butterfly and then we can let them go.

Never touch it’s wings. They are covered with very fine scales that will be displaced if you try to pick it up that way, the Butterfly needs these scales, they are not just for shimmering colour.

Put your hand in front of the Butterfly and invite it to step on.

Orange TipSo long as you are known to the Butterflies this works every time.

If the Butterflies don’t know who you are then try rescuing a Butterfly Princess from the long grass, this will earn you a reputation  as a friend of the Butterflies and then it will be easy.

Green-veined White

Green-veined WhiteNow it is time to say goodbye.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyToday the sun is shining and it feels like April. Fizz and I are going to look for Butterflies.

Probosci

Well it is “Probosci and the small question of my fee”

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

You know that and today my Butterflies are finding out. It was hard work fetching them nettles every day and I got stung a lot so in return I want a few pictures.

I set up a little waiting place for them to sit as they summon up the courage to take off into the wild….Stageand I started  taking pictures.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyThen I noticed something rather odd about this Butterfly. It has probosci  rather than a probscis.

Peacock ButterflyI know that this is coming from the fellow who brought you a Faerie just two days ago but these are genuine photographs of a Butterfly with two tongues.

I have never seen this before but then I have led a sheltered life.

Peacock Butterfly Peacock Butterfly Peacock Butterfly

I started this post this morning and I couldn’t finish it because I did not understand my own photographs, I posted my pictures to some experts and took a two headed dog for a walk. I live in a world of fantastic creatures.

I have had no response from the experts. I took some more pictures of my Butterfly’s tongue or rather tongues.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyThey seem to be fusing together and almost look like a normal tongue now.

So that is the mystery, now what about my fee?

Peacock ButterflyI won’t go into a sermon but I am in awe of the beauty of these animals, they make me want to sing hymns. I didn’t create this, well, I carried it in my room (which rhymes with womb) for a month or so but really I just pointed my stick at it. Something else created this. All of my pictures are free.

PAY ME!

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

That will do nicely, I am cheap. Take care my little friend.

For the rest of the summer this little animal will drive me nuts every time I try to approach it but today it is mine. 🙂

There is something that I have got to add before I post this. The Butterfly with two tongues is not looking healthy. It is comfortable and sitting by the window but hasn’t made any attempt to leave and it has been there for about five hours now. I think that I am looking at some sort of genetic abnormality that may go deeper than just having two tongues. So it goes. We released a lot of animals today.

Consumed by Butterflies

Well my day has been eaten up by them.

I have only actually released about ten. There are as many again that seem to have bedded down for the night. It is only eight thirty here but it is getting quite dark, it is just the bad weather, it was dark at lunchtime.

I made many hours of video today but I will spare you that. Watching Butterflies wings dry is a bit like paint.

I just want to post a few more pictures of these beautiful animals. It is not often that I can get this close to them or see them in such good condition.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Butterfly Day

As I start this post it is coming up to midday here in the UK and it has been raining steadily for the last eight hours.

I have been dreading this scenario. There will soon be thirty two butterflies flapping around in my kitchen with nowhere to go.

RainCan you imagine the cacophony that thirty two pairs of wings will create. My landlord will be banging on my ceiling, “What’s going on up there?”

It says in my lease, “No pets and no more than thirty animals in the kitchen at any one time.” That is why I borrow the Dog from downstairs.

Fizz is not allowed in my flat, she is not even allowed in her own house. It is sort of a farming thing that animals sleep outside. I could get into a lot of trouble today so I hope that the sun comes out this afternoon.

I thought that you might like to see Butterflies emerging from their chrysalis. I have speeded this video up to twice normal speed to make it a bit easier to watch. I tried 4x but the movements became jerky and unnatural and I didn’t like it.


There are eight Butterflies drying their wings out in my kitchen cupboard at the moment.

The ones that emerged yesterday spent the night in there and I released them this morning at around ten o’clock when we had a brief break in the rain.

Peacock ButterflyThat is the perfect form. Absolutely beautiful.

There will be a lot more Butterfly photographs to follow.

 

Peacock Butterflies (1)

I am going to be a bit tied up for the next day or two. No I haven’t got a new girlfriend, my Butterflies are starting to emerge.

Yesterday I looked at the chrysalis’s  and they looked like this.

Peacock ButterflyToday they had changed.

Peacock ButterflyThe first one is out. Don’t worry about the picture quality just now, I will sort that out. They are on paper and I can move them into better light. For now this one is right at the back of a cupboard on an overcast day so it is a bit poor quality.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyThere are thirty two chrysalis. I knew that when one started to go that would be the signal that the rest would follow, they all moulted at the same time. I have just been back to check on the first one and as I looked in a second emerged right in front of me. It is a great thing to see. I will video it for you.

Peacock ButterflyA whole bunch of them stuck themselves to the nettles, they are easy to move around

Peacock ButterflyAs the nettles died the leaves started to fall off. This is the only chrysalis that has come off. When I was cleaning out around them I took this one out and put it on my kitchen table. It started leaping around like a Mexican Jumping Bean. I never knew they were concious and capable of movement in this state.

Peacock ButterflyWell this is a badly written and badly photographed post but bear with me, things are going to get a lot clearer and you will see some beautiful things.

Now I have to take Shaun the Sheep for a little walk. The day is getting on, I hope they don’t all emerge in the night.

Being Slightly Imperfect

Today I am going to talk about a subject that  I know a little bit about.

FizzWe can’t all be perfect.

FizzActually, you can shut up! I am talking about Butterflies.

FizzAt least the Dog is enjoying herself.

A few years ago I found this Dragonfly.

Black-tailed SkimmerIt is a female Black-tailed Skimmer and one of it’s wings is badly misshapen, at the time I didn’t know why but I found out.

Black-tailed SkimmerYesterday I found this beautiful Butterfly in a similar situation.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyWhat has happened is that her wing has failed to inflate properly.

When a Butterfly emerges from it’s chrysalis it’s wings are crumpled and folded against it’s body. It has to find a place to hang and it pumps fluid through the wings to inflate them and once inflated  the excess fluid is drained off and the Butterfly has to wait for it’s wings to dry. The whole process can take several hours.

Small TortoiseshellThis time something has gone wrong and one of her wings has failed to inflate properly.

Peacock ButterflyThis Butterfly could still fly though and it didn’t seem too troubled by it’s slight imperfection.

Here is the perfect state, the imago.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Okay, I have just got to take the Dog for a walk…. 🙂

Shine for me

I thought that we should have some pictures of the larvae of the Peacock Butterfly and given how easy it would be for me to obtain these images….it would be a crime not to do it.

So I invited a baby Peacock outside for a photo shoot.

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock Larva

Peacock LarvaMy beautiful little animals are going a bit nuts at the moment, they keep trying to escape. They are quite big and I am not sure if they have got another moult in them or if they are ready to pupate. I have caterpillar proofed my cupboard with many more sheets of paper and I am keeping them well fed but they seem determined to wander 🙂

Aglais io

I got my first decent chance at a Peacock this afternoon.

Peacocks are really lovely butterflies but I find them hard to photograph. They are dark in all the wrong places, darkness that  I want to capture but it is hard to get them in a good light also they are so big, it is a real struggle to get all the important bits in focus at the same time So here are some pictures that I took today.

These are the caterpillars that I am raising so I should have plenty to play with in a week or so. The little monkeys staged a breakout this morning, my cupboard isn’t as secure as I had hoped but I caught them in time and they are back on fresh leaves.

Peacock Butterfly:

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

 

Caterpillar Solutions

This is just a “Raising Peacock Caterpillars” update.

I looked into buying a tailor made caterpillar house, well I only really looked as far as those caterpillar raising kits that you can buy and I didn’t like them much. The caterpillars arrive in a little clear plastic tub that is empty but for a brown layer of artificial food on the base and the animals live in this vacuum until they are ready to pupate. The kit also includes a net cage for the butterflies when they emerge. I don’t get it. You can’t keep a butterfly in a cage. You must let them go when they emerge. So I have to make my own.

The idea of keeping my caterpillars in an empty jar is appalling. Seeing the joy on their little faces as they scamper around in their nettles, surely that is what it is all about. Caterpillars are great and they have character.

On Wednesday I walked into the kitchen to be confronted with this scene.

Peacock caterpillarsI didn’t realise how many there were, about forty.

“What in the blazes do you think you are doing? Get back in your leaves at once!”

My first thought was that I had too many of them and I would have to get rid of some of them, Sort out who the ringleaders were and deal with them (That’s not as easy as you would think)

When I was a kid we had a tropical fish tank and I know that little fish don’t shoal unless you have a lot of them, my Small Tortoiseshells didn’t shoal but I only had a few and I want these to be able to behave naturally so I have decided that I must keep them but I have to make them secure.

Well I got them back in their leaves eventually and the next day they were swinging from leaf to leaf, happy little animals and their naughtiness was forgiven.

Peacock caterpillars

Peacock caterpillarsBy yesterday evening they had formed back into a ball and look like they are going to have another mass moult.

Peacock caterpillarsThey are getting quite big now and need a bit of attention.

This morning I set about dealing with the problem.

First to clean them out.

Peacock caterpillarsI took advantage of their torpor and popped them into a jam jar…

Peacock caterpillarsCleaned out the debris…

Peacock caterpillarsFreshened up their greens…

Peacock caterpillarsand popped them back in and they are none the wiser.

Peacock caterpillarsThey should really stay on their leaves but there are so many and they eat so quickly that I have to keep them well topped up.

When they are ready to pupate their natural behaviour will be to split up and move as far away from the food plant a they can. In the kit form all that they can do is climb up and stick themselves to the top of the jar. I need a big jar to keep them in.

Here it is.

Peacock caterpillars cageI found a handy sized cupboard in my kitchen that wasn’t really doing anything important. So I removed the shelf, lined it with kitchen paper, added a few sticks and there we are.

(I am no longer married so I can do this sort of thing with no raised eyebrows)

Peacock caterpillarsOf course they don’t have to live in there all of the time, I am sure that they like to feel the sun and  the breeze. I can just put them in there when I am going out or to bed, or if they are acting suspiciously.

The Pink Fingers in the Sky

This is just a quick caterpillar update before I go out to photograph a beautiful blue wildflower that I saw yesterday when it was raining.

I told you that they huddled together at night , probably because they were afraid of the dark but I was wrong.

Peacock Larvae

They stayed in that position all day yesterday and didn’t even wriggle, I was beginning to worry about them.  Had they all taken poison or something?

They behave like they are in a cult but if they are what on earth do they worship?

I needn’t have worried they were having a mass moult.Peacock LarvaeToday they are running all over the place leaving the debris of little, used caterpillar skins in a mess behind them.

Peacock Larvae

Peacock LarvaeThey have changed and what a wonderful transformation it has been.

This is what they looked like before the moult….Peacock LarvaeNow look at them. All bright and shiny in their new skins.

Peacock Larvae

Peacock Larvae

Peacock LarvaeNow I shall have to get them new leaves but I will do that after the blue flower.

Oh poop! There has just been an almighty peal of thunder. Must dash.