Butterflies in the garden

by Richard Jones

[...] we're here for the fine sea views, the quiet solitude, and the warm weather. And that weather has already brought forth its first worshippers.

Comma butterflyAs usual, during the Easter holiday break, we find ourselves watching garden wildlife in sunnier climes -- in the Isle of Wight. At St Lawrence, on the southern tip of the Island, not only are we significantly nearer the equator than East Dulwich, but the land tips steeply down to the sea presenting the perfect soil-warming angle to the sun.

I think we are the first residents of the bungalow this year and the garden has been recently 'tidied' i.e. savagely cut, mown, and cleared. The pampas grass tussock has been trimmed down to look like a giant hedgehog and the sycamore seedlings sprouting from the lawn show that we were once overshadowed by trees now reduced to inglorious stumps.

But, no matter, we're here for the fine sea views, the quiet solitude, and the warm weather. And that weather has already brought forth its first worshippers. Within minutes of exploring the garden we are buzzed by a bee-fly, Bombylius major, that perfect herald of spring as it bobs its hovering flight over the red dead nettle. Then: a comma.

Polygonia c-album is perfectly named for its many-angled raggedy wing edge. During its hibernation sojourn it is invisible; wings held tight together its dark mottled underside resembles so closely a torn dead leaf as it sits motionless under a log or inside a tree hollow. But as it now rests with its wings spread to capture the warming rays of the sun it presents its bright orange upper side. As with other hibernators it shows its age: the orange is slightly less intense than in fresh specimens and it only has one and a half antennae. Even so, it knows exactly where the sun is and takes full advantage of the sheltered corner before bolting off at full tilt down onto the undercliff.

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Gardeners' World Web User 14/04/2010 at 09:54

Peacock butterflies that have overwintered in my garage are having a great time on my winter(?) -flowering heathers. They love feeding there as much as the painted ladies do later on at the phuopsis. I do attempt to photograph my butterflies but they are not so accommodating as the flowers and,on sunny days when they are out in force, my shadow tends to get in the way and when I move, the butterflies scamper. Ah well, this is one art I shall have to work hard at mastering - I do like looking at pictures of my butterflies in the dead of winter.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/04/2010 at 22:04

Butterfllies are so beatiful,they make summer like robbins make winter.They always bring a smile to my face.I am not lucky enough to have them overwinter in my outbuilding but i get them in the garden, mostly Painted Ladys.I have had plenty of fat bumble bees over the last week or two and am looking forward to the butterflies.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/04/2010 at 20:06

I have seen the first peacock butterfly this year - on Tue 13/04/2010 in my back garden in Swansea

Gardeners' World Web User 15/04/2010 at 20:55

We have seen a Comma and a Peacock butterfly in recent days - obviously ones that have overwintered and responded to the warmth of the sun here in the Midlands. There are many large bumblebees too. These insects must need to feed after their winter hibernation. What are they feeding on? All most gardens seem to have round here are bright daffodils and primulas, neither of which are of interest to them.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/04/2010 at 22:37

i have many peacock butterflies in my garden and many other species that i am not yet familiar with. problem is i have a cat which is good at catching them. i am devestated by this. any advice? the butterflies seem to love the rubble in the corner of my garden. there are loads of them that sit there they are beautiful.

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