The ever-challenging Purple hairstreak

The flying season of the Purple hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) has recently past. It was my 3rd summer trying to get decent close-ups of this tricky species. Despite of 9 collected eggs last autumn I only managed to raise one to an adult butterfly. 7 eggs never hatched and one caterpillar died.

Fortunately, we recently relocated to a new home with a decent oak forest nearby. This means that the species flies just around the corner. I got a couple photos from the specimen that I raised, a male. Some additional shots I managed to make in the wild. It looked like the butterflies were mostly active in the early morning hours. They also came down to low-hanging branches which made it possible to try catch them with the camera.

Continuing the search for A. ilia caterpillars

Only a couple kilometers from our new home I spotted a male of the Lesser purple emperor (Apatura ilia) in early July. This gave me hope that I might have found a good larval habitat for searching overwintering caterpillars in late autumn and during winter.

While cycling home on a sunny but windy day earlier this summer I suddenly noticed a large butterfly taking off from the path. I clearly knew it must be an interesting species. Getting a close-up on the wings confirmed that it was a male of A. ilia. Since the location has growth of aspen in different sizes it’s a highly promising biotope.

Like the Purple emperor (Apatura iris) also the Lesser purple emperor has incredible blue tones on its wings, depending on the light conditions. Note, females are plain black and lack the blue shades.

The Broad-bordered bee hawk-moth

Early summer we moved to a new apartment and location. The new surrounding also has new species to offer. An early (and a bit of surprise) finding I made early July where the caterpillars of the Broad-bordered bee hawk-moth (Hemaris fuciformis).

Since the caterpillars were on a nature reserve I left the caterpillars where they were and returned a couple times for more photos. Our new apartment also doesn’t have a balcony in the shadow which would allow keeping the overwintering chrysalises outside. This can easily lead to butterflies (and moths) hatching too early.

Nevertheless, it was a pleasant finding to came across a species I’ve never seen before.

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).

First feeding traces

The spring weather has been amazingly warm recently. As a result, within just a week nature has gotten its green dress back. Also the first leafs of Salix caprea have grown, making it finally easier to track back caterpillars. With the first leafs also the first feeding traces could be found.

Just a random check on a couple bushes and I found it: my second caterpillar of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). It felt great seeing the caterpillar happily feeding on it’s first feast after the long winter. Here’s a couple photos of the great day.

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.

Caterpillar of the Small Copper

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One of the caterpillar targets for this season has been to track down the Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). In late 2015, all I was able to find was empty egg shells. I knew the habitat was right, now it was just about timing.

A couple days ago spring came back. With raising temperatures it was clear that the caterpillars will become active again. This time, I even got lucky. After browsing tiny growth of Rumex I managed to find one. Just a single one, but that’s all I needed.

Here’s a couple photos of the mid-sized caterpillar (taken in captivity). It’s size is about 8mm, and after hibernation it will probably feed for another two weeks or so.

Green beauty

Some species rarely stand still. This makes it extremely difficult to catch their beauty with the camera, or even with the eye. Hairstreaks are such species. In case of the Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) most people probably don’t realize when a butterfly is flying by. They’re simply too quick and too small. It’s difficult to get a decent shot of the species. They also rapidly loose the colors and shimmer on their fragile wings.

After raising a Green Hairstreak from egg to adult, I finally got a moment to make some photos of a specimen that was resting. Here’s a glimpse of green beauty.

Beautiful caterpillars: The Bedstraw Hawk-moth

Hawk-moth caterpillars are always impressive. Some species, however, are well disguised and only rarely spotted. Others don’t do too well hiding themselves. Caterpillars of Hawk-moths, the so called Hornworms, primarily feed during night. During daylight, they stay hidden in the growth.

The Bedstraw Hawk-moth (Hyles gallii) is a common species in Finland. Late summer the caterpillars can be found pretty easily on Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). Normally, single eggs are laid on the food plants. But there’s occasions where caterpillars can appear in small groups. In 2015, I sighted a spot where about 15-20 caterpillars were feeding on a very small area of only a couple square meters.

Caterpillars of this moths can have variations in color and pattern. Sometimes it feels that every larva has its unique dress.

Another attempt with the Purple Hairstreak

A year ago I brought over a dozen eggs from the Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) through winter to start raising them in spring. I did well at the beginning, but the adult caterpillars started to get ill. I only got one to pupate. It never hatched.

In autumn 2015 I managed to find close to 10 eggs again. I will definitely try my best to raise these eggs with care to get some butterflies in summer. It’s a species I’m looking forward to get some decent photos of. So far, I mainly managed to get ventral shots of the Purple Hairstreak. And it’s the dorsal, meaning the side visible when the wings are open, that’s something special in case of this species.

Here’s a couple shots from the eggs I found in autumn. One photo shows a caterpillar from a year ago, and how they are in disguise looking like a part of their host plant. Should you need some tips finding eggs have a look at this post.