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