Aaagh! I spoke too soon in my last blog – the broccoli is no more – look at it! I think the plump light green caterpillars will become small white butterflies and the more colourful, skinnier ones, large whites. This figures as these are both notorious for destroying brassicas, the family to which broccoli belongs. I’m not sure what the skinnier versions of the plump green ones are – did they arrive too late, or are they a different variety – do you know?
I spotted what I thought was a more unusual butterfly last week, but on investigation I think it’s common as muck. My research leads me to believe it’s a Holly Blue. My wings closed photo is below left. On the right is a professional photo showing the wings open, taken by someone called Amy Lewis. Holly Blues have two generations each year – one in spring and another at the end of the summer, so that would tie in with my sighting. Apparently the spring ones favour holly whereas the summer ones go for ivy.1 As mentioned in a previous blog there’s plenty of ivy for them around here! However my butterfly is savouring one of my Veronicas – much more discerning than those pesky brassica lovers. I’m going to invest in a net cloche for next year’s broccoli – I’ve seen you can buy pop up ones. This sounds great in terms of space saving when not in use, but I’m not sure it’s a wise plan, bearing in mind the struggle I have when trying to cram Lily’s pop up sun shelter into its carry case!
Now you may have seen in the news recently that this country now hosts the greatest concentration of the rare large blue butterfly.2 It became extinct here in 1979 but was reintroduced from Sweden in the early 80s. Although still endangered, the increase over the years looks very encouraging.3 Broccoli doesn’t do it for their caterpillars – they prefer red ant grubs. 🤮 Bizarrely they manage to convince adult ants that they are their babies and then they feast on the real ones. Red ants suffered a decline – not surprising you may think bearing in mind the above. However it was apparently due to the ending of grazing on meadowland – the ants didn’t thrive in the cool of the longer grass.
It’s sad to think that many butterflies and moths have become extinct or endangered – not helped by the once popular hobby of butterfly collecting. Poor things, trapped in a net, pins stuck through their little bodies and displayed in a picture frame or mahogany cabinet. Are any of you old enough to remember Carla Lane’s 70s sitcom Butterflies? It starred Wendy Craig (Ria) and Geoffrey Palmer who played her husband Ben, a dentist – his hobby was collecting and studying butterflies. In the first episode Ria says to the man she contemplates committing adultery with (but never does) “We are all kids chasing butterflies. You see it, you want it, you grab it, and there it is, all squashed in your hand.” She adds, “I am one of the few lucky ones, I have a pleasant house, a pleasant man and two pleasant sons. My butterfly didn’t get squashed.”
Victoria has been working through her collection of books, with the aim of donating some to charity. She came across one from 1912 by H Rowland-Brown. It contains beautiful illustrations of butterflies and moths and a wealth of information, but it’s clear from the text that butterflies did lose their lives to assist in his research. Thankfully now “of the 59 species of butterfly found in the UK 25 are afforded some kind protection and six including the Large Blue are fully protected, meaning they cannot be collected, killed or sold“.4 Sadly there are still prosecutions. The name for a person who collects butterflies is a lepidopterist – it has a sinister ring to it, don’t you think? Attractions like Tropical World in Leeds allow you to walk among beautiful live butterflies – although come to think of it, this doesn’t conjure up entirely pleasant memories for me. I volunteered to go on one of Rosie’s primary school trips (this was a rare occurrence). My overriding memory is of kids throwing up on the coach – it was only half an hour down the road!