Saturday, 28 February 2015

Helping Out At The Tropical Butterly House & Moths Return To Our Garden

I spent the afternoon ensconced in a humid glass house talking to the Public about Butterflies. 

 
Tropical Butterflies, as it's still too chilly for our native lovelies to be out and about in any number.

 
These beauties had been mail ordered by a local country park in pupa form. The pupas are hung in rows on bits of wood in a special tank and when they e-close (hatch) they are transported into the glass house where they live for about two weeks before dying. The public are invited in to admire them during the month of Feb each year, and yours truly was booked to explain the life cycle/ ecology/ habits to lots of fascinated tiny weeny people and their (sometimes terrified) parents.


 Set aside the ethics of mail-order butterflies who are hatched out only to die without mating/ laying eggs/ caterpillaring/ pupating/ becoming flutters again (which I feel is dubious) it did at least provide a good opportunity to pass on a bit of education and learning to folks who were, by and large, interested and receptive, plus I had the delight of spending a couple of hours in the company of these fantastic insects and the slightly smug enjoyment of being able to have them sit on my finger when no one else was allowed to :o)


By and large the kids were great. They kept their hands off the flutters and absorbed every word I said. Even the tiniest little person who (her granny told me) was only 2. She was fascinated and was very certain indeed that the butterflies really liked marmite more than fruit :o)


The funniest dad was the one who told me they had a glass house at home but it contained a jacuzzi, and the funniest grandpa was the one who's other half was petrified of anything with wings and remained firmly on the other side of the door with her nose pressed against it staring in.


Then there was a little girl (aged about 3) who screamed her head off when a large Owl butterfly landed on her dad's head, and a teenager who took lots of photos then told me she was frightened of them!


It gave me the opportunity to explain how vitally important butterflies and moths are and why we need to look after them, how they do the same job as bees and how without them we wouldn't have all the food we did. Predictably, most of the visitors hadn't got a clue about the pollinating aspect of these marvellous insects and were interested to learn that aspect of them, so for me it was Job Done in that respect.


I was also able to explain how camouflage works by showing the little ones the empty pupa cases which all look like dried leaves and which they loved.


Also how aposematic colouration works as an anti-predator device. Think yellow and black warning colours of bees and wasps, or red and black cinnabar moths which are poisonous to birds. This flutter was my example and very kindly sat still on my finger for ages so I could show the kids how his colours worked. Dark on the top to enable him to hide in shady places, then a flash of red and black underneath as a warning if he was worried. He has no venom of course, so this kind of warning colour is called Batesian, meaning harmless.

 


The box full of pupas which were still to hatch was an eye opener. They drill holes in wooden batons, stuff them with cotton wool, dab a blob of PVC glue on the cotton wool and attach the pupas to it. The box is maintained at the correct temperature and kept humid with regular additions of water and the flutters hatch out after 7-10 days. You can just see the large Owl flutter who has not long e-closed and is hanging on waiting for his wings to fill with fluid and become viable.



Of course, these butterflies can not survive outside in our climate so the glass house was also maintained at the correct temperature and humidity for them. This Swallowtail (below) had not long emerged from his pupa so we moved him in to the glass house, much to the excitement of the watching children who oohed and aahed at him sitting on my finger :o)






On a linked theme, I had the Moth Box out this week and lo and behold we got six species of moth in it, leading me to believe that Moth Season is well and truly getting started. 

One species was new to the garden, and that is a Spring Usher, which I like the sound of. We got two slightly different colour forms which was nice. These are both boys - Mrs Spring Usher is flightless and therefore wingless and therefore can be mistaken for a fat grub on occasion!




Also paying us a visit were...


Pale Brindled Beauty

Hebrew Character

March Moth

Acleris notana (I think)

Hebrew Character

Dark Chestnut (although it could possibly be a Chestnut. If it is a DC it will be a good record as there aren't many of them about in my neck of the woods)


DC

HC

It was lovely to see them all and have them near once more.


I have worked out what's wrong with my finger, BTW- I've strained the tendon, so unfortunately this means less computer work and therefore blog writing/ reading/ commenting for a while till it's better. Please forgive me if I'm not around as often as usual for a while. Luckily, it doesn't impinge my sewing with Phyllis :o)

Hope everyone is well and enjoying the weekend?

CT :o)

29 comments:

  1. Beautiful butterflies, what a lovely way to pass an afternoon. Sorry to hear about your finger, I do hope it's all better soon. Have a good Sunday. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks, CJ. Finger is better for not using the computer much this weekend! xx

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  2. what a lovely and informative post. I learned some new things here. A trip to the butterfly gardens this year in Niagara Falls should be a must for us now.

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    1. Many thanks, Gill. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it.

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  3. Beautiful butterflies. You got some wonderful photos of them! Such interesting information.

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  4. Hey CT,
    Hope the tendon improves very soon. I shall miss you and your posts. I didn't realise that the butterflies we visited at Bristol Zoo would have been farmed. I have a slightly unpleasant taste in my mouth. And I'm astonished that so many people didn't know how they pollinate plants! Olly told his teachers all about the life cycle of a frog this week. They were most impressed, although I worry tht they might think him precocious. That certainly happened with Sam when he gave a talk about Richard Tevethick when he was seven. But I digress...
    I would have loved to have seen you give a talk. I bet you were fab. And Hebrew Character....that's a great though slightly dodgy) name.
    Have a great week.
    Leanne xx

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    1. I'll try and post once a week at least until things improve on the finger front :o)
      I was surprised and disappointed re the farming aspect too- no conservation involved, beyond the education part, but at least that helps. xx

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  5. I've enjoyed seeing the moths - just learned that there is a wingless moth, (whilst reading) the female Rannoch Brindle and had to look it up - what a hugely wonderful and mysterious place moth world is.

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    1. There are lots of wingless female moths, especially the winter ones. They really do look like grubs! There will be plenty more moths on the blog as summer gets going- some of them are really very beautiful. It's a hugely diverse group.

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  6. What a great day would have loved to been there to hear you talk about butterflies..
    It's good to see the moths back and how hard must it be for a Spring Usher to find a female if they are not flying about too. Had a look and it's the good old Oak tree that's needed to support these moths and many more.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Did you see country file, bit about the bug farm.
      Amanda xx

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    2. That is a really good question re the mating habits. I know the females tend to congregate at the base of trees in the early morning, so possibly the males just know where to find them. I will investigate and let you know if I learn more.

      Have recorded Country File, thanks for the heads up re the bug farm, will look out for it xx

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  7. Such beautiful butterflies and moths. It sounds like it was a fun day for both visitors and yourself. We visited a butterfly conservatory last year, and it's funny to watch how different people react to them landing on you. They had a butterfly remover person waiting at the exit to lift them off if they were persistent clingers.
    Wendy

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    1. I know lots of people are afraid of them, which is such a shame but I do understand phobias, being like that with spiders myself!

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  8. What a great way to spend an afternoon surrounded by those beautiful flutters and having chance to educate people about their importance. Hadn't thought about butterfly houses just "farming" them - eek! not good :( - I had always assumed they bred their own stock from butterflies living there. Will ask more questions before I next visit one!!

    Great news that the moths are re-appearing. I didn't trap last night, although mild, has heavy rain was forecast but surprise surprise I don't think the rain ever arrived :(

    Hope you finger is better soon.

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    1. I was shocked re the farming aspect too and am now determined to find out more about it and whether there is any conservation angle involved at all beyond the educating bit.

      Great to see the moths- have really missed them. Hope you get some dry weather soon and can get the trap out too x

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  9. A few posts ago you had an adorable couple of photos of Ted & Poppy.
    I would love to send you the photos back with captions I put with them and sent to my husband. Whenever he is feeling grumpy about something he looks at those photos and suddenly all is "right" with the world.

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    1. Thanks Stone Angel, that is really kind, I'd love to see them. My family are very tickled by the thought of T and P cheering people up who live miles away!

      The email for the blog is countrysidetales@gmail.com. I shall look forward very much to seeing them :o)

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  10. As usual I've learned a great deal from your blog. Really enjoyable.

    Jean
    x

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  11. What an interesting and colourful way to spend the day! As you know I am not good with flying bug type creatures, so I would have stayed outside! Good to see the moths making a return, perhaps I will learn some more this year and reinforce last years! I expect I will need a refresher first. xx

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    1. Thank you Amy :o) It won't be long now till the really colourful moths start to appear xx

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  12. Amazing and so interesting. I love the black one with red underneath. Stunning photos!

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  13. My goodness, I bet you had fun seeing all those beautiful butterfly's and meeting the public too. I too was surprised at the mail order aspect, Do you know why they do not breed their own? Hope your poorly tendon gets better very soon.x

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    1. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon :o) I suspect the breeding may be too much of a commitment/ too complex in the UK for tropical species requirements, and that ordering the pupae in is simply easier. I'm not too happy about it either and want to learn more about the processes involved. Hope all's well with all of you xx

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  14. Fascinating post and wonderful pictures. I am sure you had those children spell-bound as you passed on your knowledge and message which is just the best thing to do!
    I hope the finger is better - rest up, no need to reply! Just give those lovely dogs a cuddle from me, please! xxLily

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    1. I have a thing about Education, Lily, which I'm sure you'll understand given your connection to books. It is so vitally important to explain why our wild things matter, and get people on board and supporting them. Talking to small folk is always a treat- they are so observant and enthusiastic and wide-eyed at everything in the world.

      Thanks for good wishes re finger (honestly, what a ridiculous injury to have!). It is a little better for a couple of days' rest. Love to Floss xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x