I am no expert photographer, preferring to capture the moment than get a perfectly composed shot. The pictures on my blog are either taken with a compact Canon, a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 or on my phone.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Butterfly and Insect World, Edinburgh

On Saturday my son and I visited Butterfly and Insect World, just outside Edinburgh. It is the perfect antidote to a cold February day after several months of butterfly-less-ness!!
The place isn't enormous, but there is plenty to see for the enthusiast or casual observer. As well as a large greenhouse, full of plants and ponds where the butterflies fly, there is also an area with reptiles, tarantulas and other insects.
You can buy a small Guide to Tropical Butterflies, but it doesn't cover all of the butterflies that can be seen there. I suppose the species that can be seen depend on the chrysalis available.
I have managed to identify most of those that I saw, but there are a few that remain a mystery to me. If anyone knows their names, or if I have made any identifications mistakes I would be pleased to hear from you.

A pair of Blue Morpho butterflies, Morpho menelaus. The upper side of their wings are an amazing blue colour, but of course you can only see that when they fly. One of these was roosting high in a palm tree and another was flying around it. I switched my camera to take a video and almost immediately the male landed and they started to mate.

This is a Banded Purplewing, Myscelia cyaniris, from Central America. Its wings had an amazing purple sheen, depending on how the light hit them. It would land, flick its wings open a couple of times and then close them to roost. The underside of the wings are a dull brown pattern.

This is a Cattleheart, Parides lysander, which is found in much of South America.

A Clipper, Parthenos sylvia, from South-east Asia.

I think this is a Doris Longwing, Laparus doris, from Central America.

This is the upper side of the Doris Longwing.

One of my favourite butterflies there was the Glasswing, Greta oto, which occurs from Mexico to Panama. There were quite a lot of them flying around the display.

This is a Goldrim, Battus polydamus, one of the butterflies I saw in St Lucia.

Thank you to Stiletto for identifying this butterfly for me. It is Hypolimnas bolina. I have a picture of the upper side further down this post, which looks completely different.

This is Hecale's Longwing, Heliconius hecale, from Central America.

This, I have discovered is a Jazzy Leafwing, Hypna clytemnestra. The upper side of the wings is mostly black, with a white band.

This is a female Low's Swallowtail, Papilio lowi, from the Philippines...

... and this is a male Low's Swallowtail.

One of my favourite of all butterflies is the Malachite, Siproeta stelenes, which occurs in Central and northern South America. I only saw one of these at the display and it seemed to like perching high in the vegetation.

Just before we left we saw a Monarch, Danaus plexippus. Whenever I have seen these in the wild I have always thought they were large butterflies, but in the company of the other butterflies here it seemed quite small!

A Postman, Heliconius erato, from northern South America.

A Purple Mort Bleu, Erphanis polyxena, from South America. These had lovely purple upper wings.

A Tiger Leafwing, Consul fabius, from South America.

The Tree Nymph, Idea leuconoe, from South East Asia. There were plenty of these drifting around Butterfly World.

This is the Variable Cracker, Hamadryas feronia, which occurs in the southern USA and northern South America. This one came down to feed on some bananas, but it normally rests flat against tree trunks.

Here are a few pictures from a previous visit.

This is a Common Mormon, Papilio polytes, from Asia.

And this is a Giant Orange Tip, Hebornia glaucippe, also from Asia.

This is a Palm Fly, Elymnias hypermenstra, from India.

This is a Pink Rose, Pachliopta kotzebuea, from the Philippines.

This is a Scarlet Swallowtail, Papilio rumanzovia, also from the Philippines.

This is a male Mimic, Hypolimnas bolina, which occurs in Africa, Asia and Australia.

I struggled to get sharp pictures of some of these exotic butterflies in the Scottish gloom! I was impressed with the number of different species on display. Initially when we arrived, I thought there were only ten or so species flying around, but the longer we stayed the more we spotted. There were other species that I didn't manage to photograph. I only saw one example of many species, but I am not sure if there were more hiding amongst the vegetation.

There were also a number of chrysalis on display waiting for future butterflies to emerge. I'll put some pictures in a separate post.

More information about Butterfly and Insect World can be found on their web site:

Monday, 11 February 2013

Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas

The Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, is a bright little butterfly that occurs over most of the UK and much of Europe. It also seems to occur in Asia, North Africa and North America where it is know as the American Copper. Here there are two generations a year, with the first butterflies being seen in May. This generation is seen until late June and then there is a bit of a lull until the second generation appears in late July/early August. The second generation seems to be far more numerous and Small Copper butterflies are still seen flying through until early October. 

Small Coppers aren't seen here in great numbers. The males are very territorial and will fly up and chase off any other insect that dares to fly too close. They usually then return to their favoured sunny spot, making they quite easy to photograph! 

Quite a large proportion of the Small Coppers seen in East Lothian have a number of blue scales on their hind wings. This is referred to as the aberration caeruleopunctata. However, sometimes there can be as few as one blue scale on each wing and other times there can be five distinct blue spots. I am not convinced that this is so much an aberration as just a slight variation!

The two main food plants for Small Copper caterpillars here are Docken, Rumex obtusifolius, and Sorrel, Rumex acetosa. Here is a female I saw laying eggs on Docken a couple of years ago. 

Two years ago, at the end of August, I saw a female laying eggs on some Sorrel at a restored open-cast coal mine. I noticed that a number of the Sorrel plants had Small Copper eggs on them, so I dug one of them up and planted it in a pot in my garden. 

The egg was less than a millimetre across. A few days later the egg had clearly hatched, but it was a few days before I managed to find the caterpillar, which was larger than I expected (about 4mm long). Over the next few weeks, I was surprised to see that it appeared to be larger on some days than others. It was a while before it dawned on me that there were actually two caterpillars in the pot!!

I kept an eye on them for the next few weeks, but when the cold weather arrived in December they completely disappeared. Despite searching the plant thoroughly I couldn't find them and I thought that they may have become a snack for the garden birds.
However, in March I was pleased to find two large caterpillars and a smaller one in the pot!! They must have over-wintered just under the surface of the soil.

They munched their way through the sorrel until they reached about 10 or 12mm and then they disappeared again at the end of April. I presume that they formed chrysalises in the crown of the plant or in the soil, but I wasn't able to find them. Possibly they had wandered off to pupate in another part of the garden.