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.

Nailed season target

One of the definitive goals for this season was to finally find caterpillars of either the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) or the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia). Already in December 2015 I found the first caterpillar of the Purple Emperor. In April 2016 another one (at a different location). Later on, I managed to locate even a couple more. One larva was too high so I hardly could get a decent photo with my camera. But the others were in a better height.

Unfortunately, I found no caterpillars of the Lesser Purple Emperor. This is one of the biggest targets for season 2017. Since the species flies rather close to where we live I feel optimistic to track down caterpillars already this autumn.

Apatura butterflies, they’re amazing all the way from caterpillar to butterfly. Here’s a couple shots from the caterpillars found earlier this year.

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.

The incredible Puss moth

The Puss moth (Cerura vinula) may not stand out that much as adult moth. The caterpillar, however, is one of the weirdest creatures the the European fauna has to offer.

A couple years ago I found a single caterpillar of the species. This summer I found three.

Flower feast

The caterpillars of some hawk-moth species mainly feed during night. When the sun sets in the evening, they start climbing up their food plants and start their feast. Like many other caterpillars they particularly like feeding on the flowers of their host plants.

Willowherb is the food plant of the Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) and the Bedstraw hawk-moth (Hyles gallii). I’ve mainly spotted the large hornworms of the latter so far. The full-grown caterpillars of the Elephant hawk-moth will follow a bit later.

Caterpillar diversity

Some species of butterflies and moths have caterpillars that change heavily in colors and pattern. Sometimes certain color forms are strictly existing (e.g. the caterpillars of the Death’s head hawk-moth, Acherontia atropos, can be green, yellow or black and white). Some species have simply “unique” caterpillars. The Red admiral’s (Vanessa atalanta) caterpillars belong to the latter.

The other day I found a good spot with masses of caterpillars of the Red admiral. I took the chance to get a better look at the diversity.

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.