Early summer hatchings

Time passes. Before one can realize that summer has started it is usually already over. Late spring and early summer was particularly busy this year since we had to arrange our move to our new home. At the same time also most of the chrysalises that overwintered, either in our fridge or on the balcony, hatched.

I rarely managed to keep the camera close by, most commonly I only saw some butterfly that hatched before taking off. However, I did get a couple shots from some of the species. It was nice to see that the Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae), which our daughter found as slightly injured caterpillar, managed to complete the metamorphosis.

Like the year before, I also had a couple Poplar Hawk-moths (Laothoe populi) overwintering. It was great seeing the difference in both sizes and coloring across individuals. The Small Emperor Moths (Saturnia pavonia), which I received as eggs from a friend, were true beauties. I remember one afternoon when I returned from work, there was quite some buzzing on the balcony. Due to a couple females that hatched the same time they managed to attract multiple males that were flying around. I’ll get back with some more photos from this species later on.

Migrant mastering winter

People say the Large white (Pieris brassicae) can’t normally survive the cold winters in Finland. Commonly, the butterflies migrate north in late summer and potentially breed after arrival. Nevertheless, in late 2015 I managed to find masses of caterpillars and took exactly 27 of them home for raising. In late spring 2016, every single one hatched.

I kept about half of the overwintering chrysalises in the fridge. The rest spent the entire winter on a balcony in the shadow, exposed to temperatures as cold as -25 degrees Celsius. The chrysalises from the fridge were also placed on the balcony in spring to get them hatch at the same time when the conditions are right.

My first surprise was that the caterpillars did not have parasites at all. The second surprise, of course, was to see the adult butterflies hatching. This are great results, proving the species can handle the conditions in the North and is able to overwinter locally.

The Hummingbird hawk-moth

The Hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is a migrating species that does not overwinter in Finland. Nevertheless, occasionally an adult can be spotted flying in summer. With even more luck, one could find a caterpillar. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any caterpillars in the wild yet. The specimen in the photos is one that I received from my friend.

Busy days

Late June we had to pack and clean. Since we were moving end of the month there were countless things to take care off. Unfortunately, the day before moving also the Purple emperors (Apatura iris) started to hatch. The caterpillars of this beautiful species were collected earlier in spring (one was found in December).

I was able to witness two butterflies hatching, the other chrysalises I had to hand out to my friend. This way I did not need to think of butterflies in the middle of our move. One of the butterflies felt disturbed as I tried to get some photos. It started to try to fly with cold wings and caused some damage to itself (so much for getting shots of a perfect specimen). The other butterfly I allowed to develop in all peace, and I only tried getting some photos of the under side of the wings.

Caterpillar of the Purple Emperor

The two caterpillars of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) that are currently feeding on potted willow on our balcony develop nicely. On the coming weekend it’ll be time for another attempt to find caterpillars of the Purple Emperor or, even better, the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia).

Waking up

Spring time does not only mean that butterflies start flying. It also means that caterpillars break up hibernation and continue the metamorphosis.

This winter I found a caterpillar of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). It has been a particular joy to see the caterpillar waking up to feed again. The caterpillar first rested for about 6 months on the same twig.

Here’s some photos taken immediately after the caterpillar reached fresh growth.

Early hatcher

I’ve kept a part of the overwintering chrysalises in the fridge this year. The other part spent winter in the shadow on our balcony. Unfortunately, today I had to realize that some of the butterflies developed too fast in the fridge. Despite of the stable temperature around 5-7 °C the one and only Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) I had hatched. Way too early. The current outside temperature is around the freezing point, and the forecast does not show any spring weather yet. Also the Orange Tips (Anthocharis cardamines) look like they’re about to hatch.

I’ll move the box with butterfly pupae to the balcony, hoping the butterflies will make it through the coming cold weeks. It’s the only chance. If they hatch too early there won’t be company by other specimen in the wild.

Conclusion: Looks like mainly chrysalises of moths that do well overwintering in the fridge. For eggs of hairstreaks or butterfly chrysalises the risk is high that they will develop too early. Note that the winter in Finland lasts much longer than in other regions.

Raising the Brown Hairstreak

To raise the Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) has been a particular joy in 2015. After collecting eggs in the wild (see this post) I had the chance to see one of the caterpillars hatch from the egg while capturing the moment with my camera.

Place a decent twig of food plant in the cage and you’ll have a true meditation moment whenever you try to find the well hidden caterpillar on the bottom side of a leaf. Also the chrysalis can hardly be found. I definitely suggest this species to anyone who likes raising caterpillars that like to hide themselves.

Hatching fun

Watching butterflies hatch is definitely one of the highlights when dealing with butterflies. In case of many species reaching this moment requires patience. It may easily take up to 10 months or more before the adult hatches.

This spring the first butterflies to hatch were Map butterflies (Araschnia levana). They hatched pretty late due to cold weather throughout spring. The timing was good as most of the 11 chrysalises hatched on a Saturday. The evening before the wings started shimmer through the pupa, a sign that something’s about to happen. I used the moment to prepare a “hatching window” for our daughter Sienna. Despite of the small size of the butterflies I also allowed her letting some of them free (taking some good shots first, of course).

A week later, the first White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) emerged. This individual was way too early for its species, but originally the caterpillars (which overwinter within the egg) hatched early after spending winter in our fridge. This species is often difficult to spot in nature, and when seeing one flying the wings may have suffered quite a lot already. Therefor, to get a perfect specimen raising them is the best option.

The third species to hatch was surprisingly a Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi). After confirming that it was a female I brought the moth to a friend of mine who tried to place it into a cage for attracting males. This way we could get fresh eggs to raise a new generation, which will hatch and show the same beauty again next year.

Disguised on a flower bud

Exactly one week ago the first two caterpillars of the White-letter hairstreak hatched. Right after hatching, the tiny, black larvae had one mission: to find a flower bud on the elm twig and dig in.

It took about 4-5 days for them to appear again. From now on, it appears they don’t hide anymore inside of the flower bud but feed from outside. Nevertheless, due to their excellent disguise it doesn’t matter where or how they feed. They won’t be spotted that easily. Having them on the buds makes it much more fun to be able to search and also sight them.

Looking forward to seeing the caterpillars grow and reach more size. Raising hairstreaks, note this is my first time and species, differs quite a lot from raising other species.