Tag Archives: Aglais urticae

Our Day Clouded Over

Yesterday Fizz and I set out with a good plan that would fetch us a lovely bowl of fruit, so what  went wrong? There was lots of fruit in the hedgerow.


SloesHazelnuts are the fruit that I really want, I shall be collecting these by the sack load. The trees around the farm are loaded with them  and the animals don’t seem to be touching them.

They are not quite ready yet but they are getting close.



HazelnutsMost of my hazelnut bounty will probably end up as bait for my cameras. There are many more than I will want and animals love hazelnuts but they are very expensive to buy.

We had gone out looking for Blackberries and things started off quite well.


BlackberriesThen I saw the first Clouded Yellow Butterfly. I have been after these for a couple of weeks now and didn’t expect to see them up here.

Clouded YellowWith a shout to Fizz I was off and running through the field. The Clouded Yellow is quite a big butterfly and in flight it’s wings are golden yellow almost orange so they are easy to follow.

It was good exercise. There are four fields behind the farm each of them about fifteen acres and the butterflies were enjoying the open space. Fizz didn’t have a clue what was going on but she enjoyed this new pass time much more than standing in front of bushes  and she chased after me, at my heels.

FizzThe blackberries that were in a punnet in my shoulder bag all jumped out of the punnet and juiced themselves in the bottom of my bag and we didn’t really get the pictures that I wanted either. Every time that I stopped and fell to my knees in front of my prize Fizz came bowling up and sent the butterfly flying. Not her fault she didn’t understand the rules of the game.

Clouded Yellow

Clouded YellowI did capture that beautiful little Small Tortoiseshell that I showed you yesterday.

P1820897Something else that I found flying in that field was this little day flying moth the Silver Y.

Silver Y

Silver YI know that it doesn’t look much in those shots so I will just show you a couple of older pictures. I would quite like to have another crack at it.

Silver Y

Silver YToday Fizz and I are sitting indoors hoping for a bit of clear sky so that we can get back up to that field and chase some more butterflies.


Fizz Well I am going to chase butterflies.

Clouded Yellow

Small Tortoiseshell Colours

I took Fizz blackberrying this morning. Yesterday got rained off, we got soaked but this morning it was warm and sunny for a while.

We didn’t get many Blackberries, there were too many butterflies in the field for that.

Here are some beautiful summer colours for my Small Tortoiseshell collection.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell


Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell


Molasses: Dark Treacle.

I have decided to have another go at raising caterpillars.

Raising Treacle wasn’t easy and for a little while I thought that it was going to be a disaster. I made quite a few mistakes. I took late instar caterpillars from the wild and the mortality rate was high and I found that upsetting. Despite those things there were some fantastic moments.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshellthe biggest thing was how much that I learned in the process.

The thing that I really wanted to do was photograph the miracle transformation from caterpillar to butterfly and in that I failed so I am going to try again.

Dark Treacle:

Aglais io, used to be Inachis io, some people just say “The most beautiful butterfly in the world.”

You know what a Peacock is don’t you?

Peacock ButterflyThe Peacock’s year is a few weeks behind the Small Tortoiseshell and there are still plenty of caterpillars about, that gives us a second chance to get the pictures.

Finding the animals wasn’t difficult, they make these little tents of silk to hide in while they eat the leaves. I don’t know how well the hiding works, I find that the tents rather draw attention to them.

Peacock Web

Peacock Larvae

Peacock LarvaeI am pleased that I have found small animals, I want to avoid the mistakes that I made last time. These haven’t been exposed to the perils of nature for very long.

Peacock LarvaeAs to building a Molasses-arium I am starting off with my old design. The caterpillars won’t wander while they are this small, they will stay happily on the leaves that I give them but I want to avoid the great escape that will come when they are ready to pupate. I think that I will just have to find and buy a purpose built home for them.

For now they have an old planter that I found in the yard with a little tub of soil in it. The greens will need water to stay fresh but you can’t put them in open water, the caterpillars will fall in and drown.

Molasses-ariumIt is no coincidence that both the species that I have kept have Stinging Nettles as their food plant. I am good at identifying Stinging Nettles and I have a ready supply of fresh leaves.

Molasses-ariumSo that is their new home prepared for now.

Molasses-ariumThe Nettles will wilt immediately but they quickly recover and will stay firm and fresh for a couple of days.

The little animals seemed to like their new home and scampered around exploring.

Peacock caterpillars Peacock caterpillarsThis morning I was pleased to see that they had reorganised themselves into a social group and were seriously eating my nettles.

Peacock caterpillars

Peacock caterpillarsThey don’t seem to have built a tent to hide in and they have no protection if I decide to eat them but I have just had a large plate of delicious new potatoes from the farm shop, they are safe for now.

Coming soon: Peacock Butterflies.

Peacock Butterfly



A New Beginning

This little butterfly was raised as a caterpillar and pupated in my flat. She emerged from her chrysalis, inflated and dried her new wings and took a brief flight around my kitchen.

Now she is standing on the edge of a precipice. She has never felt the breeze on her wings before. You can see the exact moment when she understands everything and takes control of the rest of her life. It is wonderful.

She has a long life ahead of her. this summer is all for her, she will drink sweet nectar from the flowers and spend long summer days basking in the sun. When winter comes she will find a sheltered place and hibernate, maybe waking once or twice on very warm days. In the spring time, next year she will awaken and set about finding a mate and creating the next generation of Small Tortoiseshells.

Enjoy the summer sun.

Missing you already

This is going to be another Butterfly post concerning the Small Tortoiseshell.

I was out yesterday taking photographs when I was accosted by yet another Aglais urticae, “Take my picture.” These have been by far the most common butterflies around here this year.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellI don’t know what to say to them any more. I have got Small Tortoiseshells coming out of the woodwork.

Small Tortoiseshell When I went to bed last night, some time after midnight I had a chrysalis (one of two remaining).Small Tortoiseshell ChrysalisWhen I woke up it was empty.

Small TortoiseshellShe could have waited. Actually these pictures had to be taken indoors on an overcast day so the light would have been rubbish anyway. I was not going to disturb the animal by moving her.

A little while later she started making a mess on the table.

Small TortoiseshellDon’t be alarmed, that fluid is what she used to inflate her wings. Once the wings are fully inflated she drains off any excess. It takes quite a few hours for her wings to inflate and harden and she has to be left to hang there and let everything happen as it should.

Small TortoiseshellI turned my back for a second and my butterfly was gone.

Empty Small Tortoiseshell chrysalisAt this time she was acting very keen to go but I wouldn’t let her out, she didn’t even have a coat.

Small TortoiseshellAfter a bit the rain stopped and I took her outside.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellNow just like the other two she was reluctant to let go. Something new was happening. There was a slight breeze and I could see the air flowing across her wings and moving them gently She has only ever flown inside and it must be very different to have to master the air currents.

I was in no hurry.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellWhile we are waiting for her to make up her mind and fly I am just going to crop a couple of pictures and show you something about her.

You would be excused for thinking that this butterfly has four legs, two on each side. In fact she is just like all other insects and she has six legs.

Small TortoiseshellShe belongs to a family called the Nymphalidae or Brush-footed Butterflies. They don’t use their front two legs for walking. The front legs are very hairy. You can see them in this next picture and if you can’t then clasp your hands behind your neck, now can you see them?

Small TortoiseshellAbout now I began to wonder if she was too cold to fly or just not ready, she didn’t seem to want to go.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellI put her down just inside the open door out of the breeze, so she could go in her own time and as soon as I broke our connection she was gone out of the door forever.

Maybe she will be one of those animals that pesters me in the field this afternoon.

It has been great having them live with me.

Wilding Treacle

The big news today has been butterflies emerging in my flat and the process of letting them go.

Small Tortoiseshell Small Tortoiseshell Small Tortoiseshell Small TortoiseshellBut let me just explain why butterflies are emerging in my flat for readers who have just joined us.

Some time ago I decided it would be a good idea to take some caterpillars from the wild and hopefully photograph their transformation into butterflies.

Finding willing subjects was easy enough.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaI named my caterpillar Treacle but in truth Treacle wasn’t a single animal, he had body doubles (Like in the “Lassie” films)

TreacleI built him a home that I called the Treacle-arium.

Treacle-ariumSomewhere along the line things went pear shaped. The first four animals all died. They had been attacked by parasitoid flies before being taken from the wild. I had seen these animals in action.

ParasitoidI believe that the mistake that I had made was in taking late instar caterpillars, I had wanted quick results. Those caterpillars had spent their whole lives exposed to the dangers of the wild. I restocked with a dozen tiny subjects.

I stopped writing about Treacle’s progress because I was concerned by the high fatality rate and thought that I might have to write this story from a different angle than I had intended but the little ones did okay.

One night they staged a mass break out, when I checked them in the morning they were all gone. I thought that they wanted that vaulting horse for exercise but they were really digging a tunnel. I recovered three chrysalis’s and I didn’t know what had happened to the others.

I was very pleased to find a butterfly in the kitchen this morning. It was not from one of my chrysalis’s, the second one was. I am left with two and I still intend to do my best to photograph this miracle of emergence.

Come on, I will show you the world.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

It is time to let go little animal.

I like a happy ending and it is not quite ended yet.

Treacle: Critical Update 25.05

Today Treacle got a little bit bigger.

That video was actually taken yesterday. He has been eating more nettles today but in a subtly different way. He wrapped a leaf around himself and then from inside he started to eat it from the bottom up. Now he almost looks like he is hanging from the stem of the nettle inside what is left of his leaf but he has got it wrapped tightly around him like a poncho and I can hardly see what he is up to.

Sneaky Treacle.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva

Treacle Update 22.05


Hi, I know that we have only just had Treacle but there has been a development.

Treacle has been behaving very childishly but let’s continue from where we left off. I didn’t see Treacle at all yesterday, I was not too worried, I have built him a little jungle and it is easy for him to get lost in it.

This morning I thought that I should have a proper look and see how he was doing. I am very pleased with the nettles, they seem to have taken to their new home.

Stinging NettleI had expected them to wilt within a few hours but these are the same nettles that I started with. Most of the time I keep the Treacle-arium covered loosely with cling film and I think that this creates a good atmosphere for them. I left them uncovered for a couple of hours this morning and they started to wilt quite quickly.

Stinging NettleSo where is Treacle?

The clever little caterpillar has stitched a nettle leaf with silk and he is hiding inside.

Stinging NettleSadly he doesn’t look very well. He looks very black and dry and well, dead…

Small Tortoiseshell CaterpillarI was just looking at him and wondering what had happened when I started to notice movement. I couldn’t see very well but it looked like something was crawling about on top of him.

Something has got Treacle! But no, it was worse than that, he was growing another head! I ran to get a torch.

Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar

Treacle appeared to be involved in a life or death struggle with something much bigger than himself and there was only going to be one winner.

Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar Small Tortoiseshell CaterpillarFrom the chaos of battle the victor emerged.

Small Tortoiseshell CaterpillarWell! I thought that you were a bit more grown up than that.

Hello new Treacle.

Small Tortoiseshell CaterpillarSo Treacle was not a fifth instar after all. He has shed his skin and now we have a new, bigger,better and brighter Treacle.

If I had my wits about me I would have opened the leaf and let some light in. I could have taken some really good pictures and shown you a miracle.

Instinct kicks in and my first instinct and cardinal rule is “Never stress an animal for the sake of a photograph,” He was vulnerable so I couldn’t interfere. In retrospect I very much doubt that it would have caused him any stress at all, he was busy and I should have taken the shots. There wasn’t time to think it through and I did what I always do, stood back and watched but I am sure to get another chance with one of his body doubles.

New Treacle is resting inside of his little nettle tent now. It must be quite exhausting, bursting out of your own belly. I will go and pick him some fresh leaves. Ouch Ouch Ouch.

Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar

Wonderful News

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaIsn’t he the cutest little thing ever?

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell LarvaLook at that little face.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaI knew his mum.

Her name was Marmalade and she lived in my flat from November until March.

Small TortoiseshellHe is going to be the handsomest little fellow.

Just look at him go, He is a natural born jungle explorer. I think it was all of those stories that I used to tell his mum when I was trying to get her to go back to sleep.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell LarvaAs I found him on his own I am guessing that he is in his final instar and will soon be ready to pupate.

Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars go through four moults before they are fully grown and each stage between moults is called an instar. By moult I mean that the caterpillar sheds it’s skin and inside there is a bigger caterpillar, well a bigger skin that the animal can grow into.

Initially they live together. They spin a web amongst their food plant which is nettle and live within the safety of that web. It is only during the final instar that they separate and wander off to find a suitable place to pupate. So this is a fifth instar caterpillar.

He is not that far off becoming a beautiful butterfly.

Small TortoiseshellFirst his brains have to turn to mush. Well all of him has to turn to mush. A butterfly isn’t a caterpillar with wings on.

Our caterpillar will attach himself to a leaf with silk, hang upside down and his skin will split. Inside there will be not another caterpillar but a chrysalis, a hard case. Inside the chrysalis the caterpillar then releases enzymes which dissolve all of it’s tissue.The only part of the old caterpillar that remains are small groups of cells called “imaginal discs.” The caterpillar has one disc for each body part that it is going to need as a butterfly, one for each leg, eye, wing and so on. From these small groups of cells a whole new animal grows and it is a cracker. Just like his mum.

Small Tortoiseshell

So you are going to have wings and flight.. You will have compound eyes with seventeen thousand lenses. You will have 360 degree vision and you will be able to see everything at the same time. You will have radar like antennae covered in thousands of scent detecting sensors that will give you an understanding of your surroundings that mere humans cannot comprehend. You will be amazing.

It will be a bit different from being just a big fat eating tube won’t it?

Let’s have a look at you now.

Caterpillars really are just eating tubes.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaThey have the usual  insect parts, a head, a thorax and an abdomen but it is a bit difficult to see where one part finishes and another part begins.

The knobbly bit on the end is his head and the next three sections are his thorax. He doesn’t really have a waist but under each section of his thorax he has a pair of legs called “Thoracic legs” and the rest of him is abdomen.

Show the nice people your thoracic legs.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell LarvaGood caterpillar.

Those thoracic legs help him to move obviously but their primary function is to grasp and manipulate the food that he is eating. Stinging Nettles.

At the back end he has five pairs of what are called “prolegs” and each proleg ends in a suction cup.These are not considered to be real legs because they don’t have joints and the caterpillar is a six legged animal.

Fortunately he doesn’t know that they are not real legs and he has absolute faith in them.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva

Inside he has an itty bitty silk gland and the rest of him is just intestines. He is just an eating tube but he is destined to become so much more.

I kinda wish now that I had taken him home as a pet, so that I could photograph the pupation. I might just have a look for another one.

I can barely wait for the newly emerged butterflies they are perfect.

Catch you later.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva