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)
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.
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
Acleris notana (I think)
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)
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?