October butterflies

7 October 2013

What a wonderful spell of mild weather we are having. It’s not only we humans that appreciate it, either, the wildlife also responds, getting in a late rush of feeding and even egg-laying in the case of the Southern Hawker Dragonfly. It shows very clearly how important it is to provide some flowers for late nectar in your garden – I’ll do a post soon giving you a list of suggestions, but for now I’m going to spend a couple of blogs sharing what I’ve been seeing: knowing it is soon going to be gone makes it feel so precious.

The butterfly I was most excited to see was a Small Copper: I don’t see many of them here, and they are such attractive little insects. If I get them in the garden it usually seems to be late in the year, so I’m guessing that earlier in the year there are alternative nectar sources for them. They go through several broods in one year: i.e. an adult emerges, lays eggs which hatch into caterpillars and then turn into pupae, which again hatch into butterflies, and the whole cycle repeats; a lot of butterflies only go through the cycle once a year, but the Small Copper has one brood in May, another in July/August and, when the weather is good, a third in late September/early October. You rarely see many at one time.

Small Copper on yellow Evening Primrose flower.

Small Copper on Evening Primrose flower.

This is a shot of the Small Copper by itself, but it doesn’t give you a very good sense of how small the butterfly is, especially if you judge against the size of the evening primrose flower, because this one is smaller than usual, being one that has come out very late after I’ve chopped the main stem down. The photo below shows both a Small Copper and a Red Admiral, so you can get a better idea of size.

Small Copper (left) and Red Admiral on Aster Frikartii 'Monch'.

Small Copper (left) and Red Admiral on Aster Frikartii ‘Monch’.

The Speckled Wood is another multi-brooded butterfly, appearing in April/early May, June and August/September. It likes shadier places, unlike most butterflies, and can often be found on the edge of deciduous woodland.

Speckled Wood on Rudbekia 'Goldsturm'

Speckled Wood on Rudbekia ‘Goldsturm’

I’ll share some more pics from the last two days in the next post, but just to show it wasn’t just butterflies which were being tempted by the combination of sun and available nectar, here’s a bee shot.

Buff-tail bee on Michaelmas Daisy 'Little Carlow'.

Buff-tail bee on Michaelmas Daisy ‘Little Carlow’.

Finally, for anyone wondering what the caterpillar in the last blog was (like Sarah), I think it was a Knot Grass. To see what the adult moth will be like, have a look at its entry on the Dorset Moth Group website.

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