Thursday, 6 August 2015

Big Butterfly Count (and some more garden macro)

After several weeks when the sun itself seems to have gone on an extended holiday it has been quite a treat whenever it has made an appearance. And what a difference the sun makes! Many butterflies won't fly when it's overcast, let alone raining or cool. One fine morning, from nowhere, a handful of butterflies appeared and I was finally able to do the first count from our new garden for Big Butterfly Count 2015. Big Butterfly Count is run by Butterfly Conservation and is taking place currently and up until the 9th August. To get involved you simply need to watch for butterflies for 15 minutes in a garden, park or any other location (within the UK), preferably when it's sunny and make a note of the numbers and types of butterflies seen within this time. Records are then submitted easily noting date and location to Butterfly Conservation. Lots of information about getting involved and also useful ID charts can be found on their website here.  

Gatekeeper butterfly on St John's wort

Young and newly emerged insects have also been appearing in the garden. The garden has turned out to be popular with Green shieldbugs and I have found lots of youngsters on various garden plants. These insects have 5 stages of development known as instars, before they reach adulthood. The photos below are of all of young Green shieldbugs, instars 2 and 3 taken in the garden a couple of weeks apart on same Feverfew wildflowers.

Tiny adventures... Green Shieldbug, 2nd instar stage

Green Shieldbug, 3rd instar stage

Adult Ladybirds have been emerging from their pupae, shown below is the empty pupal case of a Harlequin ladybird, you can see the split at the front from where the young adult ladybird has emerged. We have found several of their spiky larvae, and more recently ladybird pupae stuck to the leaves of various garden plants. The pupa photographed was occupied for several days, but was found empty one morning when the weather was fine and sunny, the adult Harlequin on the right was found very close by, though of course I cannot be certain this is the individual that emerged from it.

Adult Harlequin ladybird (H. axyridis spectabilis)
Empty pupal case of Harlequin ladybird

Hoverflies have also been making the most of the fleeting sun, it was wonderful to see amongst the bumblebees a female Volucella bombylans. This large and beautiful hoverfly is one of the bumblebee mimics. The hoverfly has two main variants which mimic different types of bumblebee, this one being v plumata. A more common, but nonetheless beautiful hoverfly on the lavender flowers was a male 'Marmalade' hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).

Female Volucella bombylans, var plumata

Female Volucella bombylans, var plumata (the same individual as above)

Marmalade hoverfly (male)

It has also been lovely to watch the damselflies which have visited this garden, the ones I had noticed until recently had all been been Blue-tailed damselflies, however the one photographed below was so pale I initially wondered if this was a White-legged damselfly (which would be a first for me), but looking more closely I'm sure this is instead a very pale female Common Blue. Another lovely visitor to find in the garden. If only the sun would make an appearance more often!

A very pale variant of Common Blue Damselfly


  1. Superb images and information Jan.
    It's always great to see V bombylans and you've captured this one beautifully! It's been a good year for E balteatus up here too.
    The weather this year is driving me mad, if it's sunny it's blowing a gale and if it's calm it's raining! I've lost count of the number of single handed shots I've had to take whilst holding the flower etc with my other one.
    I've decided enough is enough with the Clegs. I tried being nice, but they wouldn't listen, so it's all out war now!

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks so much Dougie! :) It was great to have V bombylans visiting the garden, and she kept returning to the same flowerbed and posed very nicely which was of course a bonus, a really beautiful insect. Yes the weather here has been a real let down too, and of course the last thing all our beleaguered wildlife needs. Our break was a few days over in West Wales - the weather was mixed to put it politely!!! As for the clegs... they can be so determined!!!! I haven't had so many problems with them since that really hot week we had early in the summer but then I haven't been out with the camera as much as I would have liked either. Ah, the old one-handed macro photography - I know it well!!!!! :)