Butterflies

(Order: Lepidoptera)




Peacock  (butterfly, underside and caterpillars) (Aglais io) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

I haven't included butterflies in my website until recently because there is plenty of information on these insects both in books and on the internet.  However, I've given in, particularly when I saw David Attenborough encouraging everyone to count them so that we can keep track on how they are faring. This is a very recognisable and well known butterfly, it has these large eye-spots on its wings presumably to ward off prey. The red, purple and blue make this a very colourful butterfly, although when its wings are closed it is almost all dark brown/black, as can be seen in the photos in the middle row. The caterpillars are a velvety black with white dots and long black 'spikes' along their 'backs'. For me, the best thing about butterflies is that they are the only insect I can photograph freely without getting strange looks.







Red Admiral (Vanesssa atalanta) (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

This was found on a slightly chilly and breezy day at the end of August. It was enormous - somewhere in the region of 7 - 8 cms. These are very familiar butterflies with their striking dark brown and red bands and black and white wing tips. They are common in parks and gardens throughout the UK and can be found almost anywhere, including at the top of mountains and in Orkney and Shetland.






Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae(Near Muthill Road, Crieff)

Another colourful butterfly, mainly this vibrant terracotta colour with black markings and bluish lacing around the lower edges of its wings. The large tortoiseshell is only a little bigger, but is a duller orange than this small tortoiseshell. It can often be seen flying in fields and meadows where there are nettles, and there were certainly a lot of nettles on the margins of the fields where I spotted this in Crieff. This one was found taking short rests on the ground in a carpark and there was a crowd of bystanders as I gently approached it to try and get a decent shot. Embarrassing, but as always, worth it in the end...




Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway)

This painted lady butterfly was spotted in July 2019 - perhaps as part of the mass migration from Africa that is currently reported to be taking place. I also spotted one in the south side of Glasgow although was unable to get a decent photo of it. There is a Big Butterfly Count going on at the moment and people are being asked to count and submit any sightings to this link submitting sightings onlineThe painted lady pictured above is a bit of an elderly and battle-worn one I'm afraid, but this fading pattern is typical of these butterflies. In their prime, their beautiful salmon-pink colouring contrasts with the deep black and white wing tips. But my favourite feature of these butterflies is when they close their wings - the pattern I think is absolutely mesmerising - truly like a work of art. Unfortunately, I only have one terrible photo of this butterfly with its wings closed and it's just too awful to include. But whilst this species can be difficult to photograph, apparently when they're feeding on nectar, as here, they are often completely oblivious to you sticking a camera in their face snapping away. Now these are the kind of insects I like...




Comma (Polygonia c-album) (Darnley Country Park, Darnley, South West Glasgow)

Firstly, apologies for the quality of these photos. I was never able to get close enough to this butterfly to get a decent shot of it, other than from a really bad angle. Anyway, when I spotted this, I wasn't very sure what it was - it seemed to be a bit of a cross between the small tortoiseshell above and the fritillary below. It was also circling repeatedly with a peacock butterfly at the time. I don't know if they were fighting for territory or attracted to one another. Anyway, an interesting fact about this butterfly is that the insect books I have right up until 2005 say that this is absent from Scotland! Clearly, it isn't and from more recent texts and internet searches I can see it has begun to make an appearance in Scotland too, although it's far from common. It's hard to see from these photos, but the edges are very 'ragged' looking which distinguishes it from the other similar-looking butterflies. It's called a 'comma' butterfly because on the dark underside, there is a white comma like mark on each wing, but it wasn't glaringly obvious to me. One last point to note is that there are several different forms of this butterfly, so they may vary from the one shown here.





Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Clossiana selene) (Blawhorn Moss National Nature Reserve, near Bathgate and Mabie Forest, Dumfies and Galloway)

A stunningly beautiful butterfly but a difficult one to photograph as they only rest very briefly before flying off again. Apparently, they will rest for longer with their wings open early in the morning or when it's cloudy. When I took the photo on the right, it was the afternoon and beautifully sunny and these large fritillaries were merrily flying at what looked like 30 miles an hour non-stop over my head.The upper side of this butterfly, like most fritillaries, is orange with black markings - please don't zoom in on this one - it's a shockingly bad photo, but you get the idea. With the white lacing all down the edges of it's underwings outlined in black, it is easy to see why it is called pearl-bordered. The small pearl-bordered  fritillary has a number of white 'squares' in the middle of its wing and an arching row of black dots beneath its 'pearls'. It also has a large black dot in the centre of its wing. Pear-bordered fritillaries on the other hand only have 2 white squares and no central black dot. These butterflies are widespread throughout Scotland but only western in England.




Ringlet (male middle row, female bottom row) (Aphantopus hyperantus) (Darnley Country Park, Darnley, South West Glasgow and Bonaly Country Park, Edinburgh)

You won't have any difficulty finding one of these - they appear to be taking over the whole of Scotland! They're absolutely everywhere and often in large numbers. The yellow-ringed eyes on the underside of the wing give this butterfly its name (as you can see from the photo at the top and the photos on the right). The male has the small dark spots on the upper side of its wings (as on the top left) whereas the female has similar rings on the upper side of its wings as there are on the underside (as you can see in the photo on the bottom left). A bit of a dull butterfly which some may confuse with a moth due to its lack of vibrant colouring associated with butterflies. The way to tell butterflies from moths is by looking at their antennae. Butterflies have straight antennae with little 'knobs' at the end (much as you see in children's drawings) whereas moths' antennae are feathery or straight. Unless you can get close enough to them, it can sometimes be pretty difficult to tell one way or the other.



Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) (Bonaly Country Park, Pentlands, Edinburgh)

I hope you appreciate this photo - I waded for ages over uneven heathland and went knee high into a bog to get this shot. The small heath butterfly is quite small and hairy and is orange and white and brown with one eye spot on the top wing. The large heath butterfly on the other hand has several eye spots. And interestingly, whenever it settles, it always does so with its wings closed. 




Meadow Brown (top photo underside, bottom left female, bottom right male) (Maniola jurtina) (Eskrigg Nature Reserve, Lockerbie)

This is one of the most common butterflies in the UK. Unlike the Gatekeeper butterfly, it only has a single white spot within the black eyespot whereas the Gatekeeper has two white spots. The underwings, as in the top photo, are the most commonly seen. There are sometimes dark spots on the underside of the wing, but this can vary. Getting photos of them with their wings open requires a huge amount of patience and good luck. However, as you can see, with the wings open, the males'  wings are much darker with slight orange shading round the eyespots, whereas females have more extensive orange patches round her eyespots, making her far more striking, and beautiful than her male counterparts.




Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway)

Weird or what? This butterfly has distinctly unbutterfly-like features - particularly the way it seems to sit on the top of plants at an angle with its wings spread in this odd looking V shape one on top of the other. It's also very moth-like with its dull colouring and hairy abdomen. The only reason I knew this was a butterfly at all was because of the nodules at the end of its antennae. It also has a peculiar angry look about it and it certainly didn't like me trying to approach it to take a photo, which explains the series of duff shots despite my best efforts. But I think the top photo and the bottom right photos are of females, because the male, which I think may be on the bottom left, has distinctive black 'sex brands' on its forewings. These black bands emit a scent which may act as a male sex pheromone. Apparently, some species scents are even perceptible to humans. I'll need to go back some time and try and get better photographs particularly of it upper wings. Lastly, this skipper is only found in the south of Scotland, and ever there it is apparently becoming rarer, which is a real shame, even if it is angry looking.





Small Skipper (female) (Thymelicus sylvestris) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway)

I was really excited when I got these shots, because I thought I'd managed to get better photos of the skipper above. But it was even better than that, as I discovered that it's a different species of skipper altogether. And the reason I thought it was the same one as the above is because it's the same size. No - no smaller than the larger skipper. Better behaved certainly - it sat still for a little longer, but no smaller. Anyway, the difference is fairly clear. The large skipper has mottled markings on its hind wings whereas the small skipper is a fairly consistent golden brown throughout. The male of this species also has a black 'brand' (see above) which is lacking in the female, as here. I found both species in the early evening when most of the other butterflies had retired for the night. Like the large skipper, it is only found in the south of Scotland.





Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway)

Wow, wow, wow! This, in my opinion, is easily the most beautiful of all the butterflies - seeing this for real completely took my breath away. It isn't obvious from these photos, but it was almost purply-violet in colour and as it flew it was like a fairy fluttering past. My only problem was that it landed quite high up, so it was difficult to get photos from the right angle. Still, I was pleased enough with these. It was wee and cute and looked like some fairy princess (or perhaps that should be prince) straight out of a Disney film, blue and vibrant and fluffy with stripy antennae and beautiful delicate spotted brown and orange underwings. Also, I know these are supposed to be 'common' but genuinely, I don't remember seeing one in my entire life before. The upper side of the female, on the other hand, is a dull brown colour with orange markings.





Orange-tip (male top, female bottom) (Anthocharis cardamines) (Darnley Country Park, Darnley, South West Glasgow)

The male, as in the top photos, has these unmistakable orange wing tips, whereas the female (at the bottom) is all white and can be confused with other white butterflies. The poor female must wonder if it's colour-blind when people point at it saying, 'Look, there is an orange-tip!' With its wings closed both the male and the female have this distinctive white and mustard mottled colouring.  Although these are common throughout the UK, they are apparently rarer in the north of Scotland.





Green-veined White (male and mating)(Pieris napi) (Near Muthill Road, Crieff)

It was difficult getting a picture of these butterflies with their wings closed as they do not seem to rest for very long, but luckily I came across a pair mating, which gave me more time to get a picture of the underside of their wings. The upper side of the wings are mainly white, with females having two black spots on the upper side of the forewings and males having just one (as in the photo on the left). The male can look a bit like female orange tip butterflies, which donn't have orange tips - but when the wings are closed, this green-veined white has, as you can see here these greenish-grey veins on the underside of its wings, making the identification of this butterfly unmistakeable. With the wings open, I think the black tips of this species are a bit more grey and less black than the female orange-tips, but that might just be me.




Small White (female) (Pieris rapae) (Darnley Country Park, South West Glasgow)

Not the most dramatic of butterflies and looks similar to a number of other white butterflies. However, the female (as here) as two black spots on the upper side of its wings, whereas males only has one. In addition, the upper side is less veiny than the green-veined white, as you can see above. The underside of this butterfly is yellow, which I saw as it flew away, but unfortunately I was unable to photograph. It can also be distinguished from the large white butterfly as the tips of its forewings are much less dark than they are on the large white. Whilst the adult butterflies are welcome into gardens, the green camouflaged larvae are pests and cause considerable damage to cabbage plants.










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