The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.



Sunday, 20 May 2018

Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta

2017 was generally not a  good year for butterflies here in South East Scotland, but strangely it was a very good year for Red Admirals, Vanessa atalanta.


In previous years the Red Admiral was considered to be a summer visitor to Scotland. They would arrive here from May to July from the continent and would lay eggs to produce the next generation, which it was thought either perished or returned south for the winter. However, over the last few years there have been a number of early sightings of Red Admirals here, suggesting that they are able to survive the milder winters we have had recently. Sadly, the long cold winter we have just had appears to have killed off all of the Red Admirals, but I notice that in southern England enthusiasts have found eggs and caterpillars throughout the winter.

The caterpillars nip the stems of nettles, causing the top to wilt over and then they create a little tent for themselves by stitching the edges of a leaf together.


Last year there were a lot of caterpillar tents seen and I decided to collect a couple to watch the caterpillars' development. I picked two nettles containing caterpillars on 22nd August and put them in a pot of water with other nettles for the caterpillars to feed on. It turned out the caterpillars were very close to forming into chrysalises.


Two days later, on 24th August, I noticed that one had formed a chrysalis on roof of the container. 


The other caterpillar had made its way to the top of the container and woven silk to form netting on the plastic window. The next day this caterpillar was hanging by its tail end from its silk pad.


The following day, the 26th August, the second caterpillar was still hanging by its tail end. I took the cage outside and within 30 minutes saw it was now forming a chrysalis.


It was a further 28 days before a butterfly emerged from the first chrysalis on 20th September. The second chrysalis also took 28 days to eclose, with the butterfly emerging two days later.


Unfortunately, they both emerged while I was at work, so I didn't see the adult butterflies. I was interested that they both chose to form their chrysalises on the roof of the cage. As far as I am aware they normally form the chrysalis within the tent they have made out of nettle leaves. Maybe the shelter of the cage made them feel secure.



11 comments:

  1. Oh i am so sorry that they eclosed while you're away. Once when i had a hawkmoth pupa inside the condo unit, i happen to leave for a few days. I looked for it when i returned but can't find it, just found out when i cleaned the room and it was dead at the floor near some boxes. When are your winter pet coming out? I've been waiting for your posts in FB.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They never seem to eclose when I am about. My Orange Tips all successfully eclosed two weeks ago after their long transformation! That was 9 months that they remained a chrysalis.

      Delete
    2. OHMYGOD! Nine months is a very long time, if that was mine i will think they are already dead in maybe 3 months. I cold climates they certainly have very long pupation unlike here in the tropics. However, i am not living at home near them yet so i can't successfully rear the larvae. In the next future i will certainly will. Your pupae are lovely.

      Delete
  2. Excellent post again Nick, hope you are having a good season. Saw two new species at the weekend, Pearl Bordered Fritillary and Wood White, the weather has been kind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Brian. It is certainly an interesting season. A very slow start and then four weeks of amazing weather. Loads of Orange Tips and Speckled Woods, but everything else is quite low in numbers. I hope things pick up for the rest of the season.

      Delete
  3. I remember when I followed the Caribbean Monarch, right in the middle of the city, and had to watch it pupate right under a shrub in the middle of a busy road. The only one I was able to take home was a moth chrysalis (The Tetrio Sphinx (Pseudosphinx tetrio)) which tends to pupate on the ground, and doesn't need a cremaster.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember your posts about the Monarch caterpillars. I have been enjoying rearing a few caterpillars recently.

      Delete
    2. Monarchs are really popular in the U.S., and now I've read there are some Monarchs that do not migrate (but the same species) I suppose it has to do with geography?

      Delete
    3. Hi Maria. I think you are right. I guess that the populations in the Caribbean and Florida aren't triggered by the weather? We also have Monarchs in southern Spain and in the Canary Islands which don't migrate, but in both places the weather remains mild in the winter.
      What I find most amazing is that the great grand children of the butterflies that fly north are able to return to the exact location their grand parents set off from. How can they know that?

      Delete
  4. Hi Nick,
    A pity you were away to the hatching of the butterflies.
    I see very few (all species combined) here this year and I guess the very wet weather has to do with this situation.
    The Admiral although common is magnificent and catches the eye immediately!
    Take care and enjoy your week

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Noushka, The number of butterflies is very low here this year, too. We suspect it is because we have had three dull, grey summers in a row. Last summer we had very heavy rain at the beginning of June and July and then virtually no sun for the rest of the year. Also the long, cold winter appears to have killed all of the Red Admirals. I am hoping that numbers may jump back up. We have had a great spring so far.

      Delete