A Flutter of Summer

One of the spectacular things to have happened this summer in the UK is the proliferation of bees and butterflies that appeared. This, in spite of the doom and gloom mongers that claim they are all in decline and on the verge of dying out (the bees and butterflies, that is). Piffle! These so-say experts ought to come and visit my place and see what’s really on the wing. Mother Nature has a wonderful way of making things right and she had done so this year with a flourish. All it takes is the right plants, the right weather and hey presto, the gardens, woods and sky are filled with the flutterings of a multitude of wings.

I had a feeling this was going to be a good year for them when back in May, I saw for very the first in my garden an orange tip. These are apparently exceedingly rare and this was only the second time I’ve ever seen one, the first being the previous May in my mother’s garden. At first glance these beauties can easily be mistaken for cabbage whites but that bright one spot on the front wings is very notice when they are close. I tried taking a photograph but it wouldn’t keep still or land, so apologies for the blurred picture, but it is there on the left by the tree! (Note to self: learn how to use the movie setting on my camera!)


The Orange Tip – too quick for me!

Many butterflies are attracted to purple flowers which is why buddleia plants are so attractive to them, but not all buddleias are purple. There are yellow and white varieties too. The garden opposite my house has a large white buddleia in the front garden and that, like mine, has been smothered this summer. My small rear garden has three buddleias, one mine and two overhanging from my neighbours’ garden but I don’t mind in the least. They are lovely flowers and the reward this year has been fascinating to watch, both for bees and butterflies.

Just some of the butterflies on one bush.

Just some of the butterflies on one bush.

The garden has been alive with all many types including the dratted cabbage whites (more on them in a moment). At one point we counted 18 peacocks, 9 red admirals, 4 commas, 11 tortoiseshells and 7 painted ladies one bush. Several holly blues were about and also the common wood. Never have we seen such a profusion. Another first was the arrival of the brimstone, pale green underneath and pale yellow up top. We also had one come in that we’ve never seen before and I have no idea what sort it was. It was bright orange and about two inches across. I haven’t been able to find out more on the internet about it and it flew away long before I could get the camera out. (Another note to self: always keep camera to hand when in the garden!)


The Red Admiral (with a Peacock in the background)

On top of all this, the cabbage whites had a field day. They were everywhere, fluttering in clouds above the garden on a daily mating dance before laying their eggs on mainly the nasturtiums. Dave was seen on several occasions shooing them off the brassicas where they liked to settle at night. Whilst they are a nuisance with their caterpillars eating for England on the leaves, they are such a summery sight we leave them be and just remove the leaves that host eggs and caterpillars. No doubt next year we will see even more whites.


The Tortoiseshell

At first glance you’d think all cabbage whites are the same but seeing so many together I was amazed at the differences. Some had a spot on the front wings, some not, some on all four. Some had black markings on the tips of the wings, others not. Some had black markings and no spots, some two spots on each front wing. Many folded their wings when feeding, others kept them open. Some looked yellow underneath, others veined with pale green. And they were all different sizes, some small, some larger.


The Brimstone

We’ve also had lots of moths, the most exotic being several visits by the humming bird hawk moth that feeds in daylight and hovers just like a small humming bird. Again, something we rarely see in our garden, likewise a squadron of dragonflies circled our koi pond most mornings. A pity they never settled, and I simply must learn how to use the movie setting on my camera – they were a wonderful sight.


The Humming Bird Hawk Moth – photo courtesy of the BBC

Oh well, summer is on it’s way out sadly, but listen all you beautiful butterflies, you all come back next year… Please…!

15 responses to “A Flutter of Summer

  1. Wow, you got some amazing pictures, Kit, even without movie mode! My camera has a hi speed setting that will take several pictures in quick succession, but mine still come out a little blurry. Sigh.
    I have to say, I love visiting your garden virtually. You make me feel like I am there and you have such an oasis to enjoyl I feel like we’re having tea Over The Backyard Fence. Okay, so I’ll be having coffee, to be quite honest. Still trying to learn to drink tea. 🙂

  2. What a beautiful sight and your writing adds to the pictures with an in depth visual. I never thought about the attraction to purple. I have lavender here and the bee’s love it.

    I have never seen butterfly’s like yours. Here’s hoping for their return next year.

    • We have six or seven lavenders, Lavada, two of which are pink and white and it’s been most noticeable how the bees have favoured the normal “lavender” coloured ones most. They are easy plants to maintain as well, which is another reason why I like them. 🙂

  3. Gorgeous photos, Kit. I also didn’t know about butterflies being attracted to purple and I’m now planning to plant a buddleia in my garden for next year. We noticed many butterflies and bees in the garden this summer which, as you say, put paid to all those so-called experts who say their numbers are declining. Here’s to next year!

    • Oh yes, buddleia isn’t called the “butterfly bush” for nothing. Well worth growing one. Need to plant it where it it will get maximum sun and you’ll be well rewarded. 🙂

  4. Your butterflies were beautiful! I think ALL butterflies are beautiful. Whereas I do NOT think the same about bees! I admire people like you who can name all the different varieties, of anything! Me? If it’s pretty and flies, it’s a butterfly…

  5. Awesome pictures! I love, love butterflies. I had one sail past me yesterday and it made me so happy.

  6. Pingback: Late Summer Purple Haze | Forest Garden

  7. Valerie J. Patterson

    Another fantastic post, Kit. I do apologize for being late to reading it. Life has been the utmost of hectic since the very beginning of August. Starting to unwind. But I digress…

    I very much enjoyed your photographs and the descriptions of the activity in your garden. I have never heard of a humming bird hawk moth before, and admit I was quite surprised by its beauty in the pic you supplied! You’ve got a good stock of knowledge of butterflies! I’m impressed…and I love butterflies as well. Such fleeting beauty! 😛

  8. Pingback: Cabbage White caterpillars | Entomiscellanea

  9. How lucky to see all those butterflies in your garden! And congratulations – butterflies are definitely not the easiest to photograph. I also have to agree that it’s always a good idea to keep a camera with you when you’re in the garden.

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