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.

Childhood memories

I recently found a caterpillar of the Eyed hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellatus). This beautiful, well hidden caterpillar brought up childhood memories.

As a small kid I once found an egg on the under side of a willow leaf. I managed to turn that tiny egg to a beautiful Eyed hawk-moth, through the entire metamorphosis.

Here’s a couple photos of the caterpillar. I tried to get shots from different distances, for those interested in learning how to spot caterpillars in the wild. Personally, I like photos that show not only the caterpillar but also the plants and surrounding.

Rare 2nd breed

Commonly, the Small Tortoiseshell has a single breed each year. Due to the location of Finland the species only has a 2nd breed in years with good weather conditions.

After two bad years the Small Tortoiseshell has declined in population. In 2015 I hardly spotted this butterfly at all. In summer 2016 the species has taken a great leap back. Early summer the first breed turned to adult butterflies. They were flying in large numbers. But that’s not all. Recently, I’ve noticed a high number of caterpillar nests, too. During a check at a farm I noticed caterpillars in almost all instars. This means a 2nd breed will continue to grow the population this summer.

It’s one of the most common butterflies. Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure to take a close look at the beauty of this “ordinary” insect.

Species check at the farm

Today, I wanted to take a different approach searching for caterpillars and butterflies. Instead of searching for a particular species I selected a small location. I then spent about an hour at that location, the Haltiala farm in Helsinki, trying to spot as many species as possible.

No rare species today, but it was a good day and it was great to see that the ordinary butterfly species do very well at the moment. What I found was young caterpillars of the Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor), lots of caterpillars of the Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), caterpillars of the Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) in almost all instars, Large whites (Pieris brassicae) that most likely migrated to Finland recently and of course, European peacocks (Aglais io).

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.

Half-success with Sphinx ligustri

Since about two weeks I’ve had a special priority: To find caterpillars of the Privet hawk-moth (Sphinx ligustri). It’s the largest caterpillar that can be found in Finland and it almost looks like a gigantic candy.

The search has been exhausting and with my e-bike I’ve been riding several hundred kilometers, keeping a close eye on growth that the caterpillar accepts as food plant. While I was able to locate several other species of hawk-moths there was absolutely no trace of Sphinx ligustri.

Today, on the 5th birthday of our daughter we went for another visit to one of the children’s playgrounds nearby. I couldn’t resist checking some of the perennial herbaceous flowering plants decorating the playground. There it was, less than 500 meters from our home, an almost full grown caterpillar was feasting.

The caterpillars of the Privet hawk-moth are amazing. This is one of the species highly suitable for raising with kids. Unfortunately, the species also suffers great losses to parasites. The caterpillar found today was carrying over a dozen eggs of parasites on its skin. The truth is this specimen will never become a moth. Something else will hatch from the chrysalis. I’ll call this finding half-success.

Nevertheless, here’s some photos of the caterpillar. I’m sure we’ll find more over the next couple weeks. This one might be a bit early anyway.

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).

Translucent Orange Tip

The chrysalis of many butterfly species become translucent before the adult hatches. In case of male Orange Tip butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) the sight is particularly beautiful.

This specimen was raised from egg to adult butterfly. The second shot presents a freshly hatched female Orange Tip, drying its wings before taking off for its first flight.