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.

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.

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.

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.

Raising the Green-veined White

The Green-veined White (Pieris napi) is, with no doubt, one of the most common butterflies. The species also has many generations per year, which enables us to see them fly almost all year long. Caterpillars, however, usually remain well hidden on their host plants.

One day in late May last year, while searching for other caterpillars, I saw a couple Green-veined Whites flying around plants that can be considered their caterpillars food plants. I decided to keep my eyes on one of them. After the butterfly took a short rest on the growth I took a close look. It turned out the butterfly, a female, wasn’t resting after all but laying a single egg on one of the leafs.

I took the egg home for raising. Here’s a couple photos from the journey from egg to butterfly. Note though, the adult butterflies featured below (including the copula) are other specimen to show the imago.