Tag Archives: Peacock Chrysalis

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.


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.

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.


My caterpillars have been entertaining me today.

They were very well behaved when the time came to pupate. For the last week they have been escaping and running all around my kitchen and causing me no end of problems. I was dreading the time when they decided to leave the host plant and pupate but they were all very good and stayed in their cupboard. They made life very easy for me.

This video runs for six minutes because that is how long it takes the caterpillar to shed it’s skin and then attach itself to the roof of the cupboard. I don’t expect people to watch a six minute video, just watch what you like but it is important that we have it.

I will just tell you what you are going to see. The caterpillar has attached a ball of silk to the roof and he is hanging from his two back prolegs. His skin will split and inside there is a chrysalis. There is a moment when the old skin has almost been shed when the caterpillar is quite vulnerable. It is the old skin that is attached to the silk and not the chrysalis, if it sheds too quickly the chrysalis will fall. At this stage it is a very soft bag filled with fluid, if it falls it will probably burst open and die. At the end of the chrysalis there is a hook like structure called a cremaster and before it falls the chrysalis must twist this cremaster into the silk pad and then the old skin can be dropped. That is what all the wriggling about is for toward the end of the video.

That is magic.

Here is one that I made earlier.

Peacock chrysalisNext we have to photograph the changes in the chrysalis as it ages and then film butterflies emerging from their chrysalis’s.

That shouldn’t be too difficult, as soon as one emerges I will know that the others are about to do the same. I hope 🙂