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.

Nervous company

Finally, after two weeks of gray and rainy weather the sun came back, timed well for the weekend. Even though I spent a couple hours in the greenery on Saturday and Sunday I wasn’t able to sight any new species. Furthermore, I still couldn’t spot any individuals of the Map (Araschnia levana) which was clearly one of my targets.

Compared to the earlier trips this spring there was one major difference. All butterflies, regardless of their species, were very active. They appeared to be nervous and mostly didn’t stop by on flowers at all. Feeding did not have priority. All focus was clearly on finding a late mate for pairing. This made it also very difficult to get any butterflies with the camera.

The Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) was one of the most common species this weekend. Even though I counted over a dozen individuals (once three male at the same time) they just didn’t rest. One female, which I didn’t get sharp on a photo, was the only one which actually stopped on some flowers. I checked where she landed afterwards to make sure she wasn’t laying eggs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any. Most likely it hadn’t copulated yet.

I guess I need another trip to make some new sightings. Good luck soon many more species will be around.

Just to wrap up the weekend here’s some data:

Location: Espoo Central Park, Finland. Weather: Sat 17 decrees Celsius, Sun 21 degrees

Sighted species:

  • Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas), 2 individuals
  • Moarning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), 1 indvidual
  • Comma (Polygonia c-album), 2 individuals
  • Common Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), 10+ individuals
  • Green-veined White (Pieris napi), 10+ individuals
  • Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines), 10+ individuals
  • Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi), 10+ individuals
  • Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus), 3 individuals



The Butterfly Garden project

Many people feed birds in their garden during winter time. Give it a shot, and do the same with butterflies in the summer.

Assuming you have a spot with some direct sunshine you can try attracting butterflies through a series of preparations. I’m going to experiment a bit on my own, trying to set up the ultimate butterfly attraction.

Obviously, an important factor for success is the location. If your garden is downtown it will be more difficult compared to living on the countryside (where lots of butterflies will fly by your garden anyway). We got our own small backyard close enough to nature to take the challenge.

This section, the butterfly garden, is about attracting as many butterflies and different species to visit our garden as possible. Specially selected flowers, feeding stations and food plants will hopefully generate results.

I can’t make promises, but the coming season will show how lucky I get.

Give it a try…

Try visiting your local garden centre on a sunny day. Assuming they keep flowers outside you can watch if any of the flowers around seem to attract butterflies better than others (see photo below).

Source: The Butterfly Playbook

Related photos

Smartphone photography

Technology has made butterfly watching significantly easier in the recent past. The reason, quality cameras built-in into smartphones are always at hand.

A decent DSLR camera is generally part of the equipment for excursions. However, sometimes butterflies are spotted in surprising moments like walking your dog, on your way to work etc. It would be a shame to miss such moments.

In another post about my first sighting of a Scarce Tortoiseshell, I already highlighted the benefit of having a camera available for sudden moments. Personally, I’m working with an iPhone 4S. During summer 2013 I was not making any proper excursions for sighting butterflies, but I spent a lot of time outside. Hence, most of my footage originates to my smartphone. Some of these photos are featured below. No tripod was used.

Smartphone cameras don’t get close to a decent DSLR camera. Though, I was surprised by the quality that can be achieved with the camera of the iPhone 4S. It is easy to keep the camera with you, and also shooting photos is simple. However, the depth is often missing, and it might not always work out to get close to details.

Give it a try…

When using a smartphone camera, shoot as many photos as possible. Use different angles and distances. Check the results from the photo roll always after a couple shots to verify if you’re getting close to the desired results. Furthermore, you’ll need to get close to the object.

Source: The Butterfly Playbook

Related photos

Scarce Tortoiseshell

As a kid I mostly came across Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae L.) and some close, equally common relatives. I was wishing to spot some of the larger, but quite identical species.

It took 20 years to make this wish come true, and all by coincidence. Spending time with my family on a children’s playground nearby, I suddenly saw a creature flying nervously. It looked very similar to the Small Tortoiseshell, but bigger.

Thanks to the decent camera built-in into the iPhone, and the fact that the butterfly took a rather long rest on a birch next to me, I got the chance to get some photos. This was of huge help for later identifying the individual at home.

First, I was convinced it was a Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros), one of the species I seriously wanted to sight as a kid. Nevertheless, a more detailed look confirmed it actually was another species, a Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas).

Related to another incident in summer 2013 which got me to reinvent a childhood hobby, this was yet a big player helping to make that decision.

Finding caterpillars of the Scarce Tortoiseshell is definitely one of the challenges to aim at in summer 2014. It’s not an easy target, but that’s what the Butterfly Playbook is all about.

Did you know…

The Scarce Tortoiseshell used to be an unusual wanderer in Finland. However, in summer 2012 a mass migration of the species took place. The same phenomenon repeated itself in Finland in 2013.

Source: LuontoPortti (January 9, 2014)

Related photos