The Comma

One may think the Comma (Polygonia c-album) looks a bit strange. It’s the shape if its wings that differentiates this butterfly from other closely related species like the Small Tortoiseshell and the European Peacock.

The Comma is a pretty common butterfly, perhaps not as common as its relatives listed above though. Flying in two generations this species can be spotted either in spring or after midsummer. Here are some shots from season 2014. In summer 2015 I focused on photographing other species. Unfortunately, I was not lucky finding any caterpillars and will continue my hunt early summer 2016.

The quest for the Small Copper

This year one of my target caterpillars for raising is the Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). This butterflies is one of the smallest but most common species in our region. Nevertheless, finding caterpillars is a bit tricky.

As with many species of the Blues, caterpillars are tiny and well disguised. This counts for the Small Copper, too. I’ve been browsing through vegetation accepted as host plant every once in a while, with no results so far. In autumn 2015, however, I tracked down a habitat where I’ll continue my search this spring. Just nearby where we live, in a small rocky forest.

One afternoon I spent checking Rumex plants on those rocks, finding two empty egg shell. Caterpillars I found none, possibly they had already withdrawn for hibernation as it was later in autumn. I’m optimistic to find slightly larger caterpillars once the snow has gone and the warm spring sun gets the plants to grow again.

Beautiful pest – The Large White

Some butterflies are not only seen as beautiful creatures. While the caterpillars of most species enjoy plants growing in the wild others have a preference for cultivated plants. The Large White (Pieris brassicae) is often referred to as being a pest, causing severe damage in cultures and gardens.

Usually, the Large White is kept in balance by natural parasites, especially the White Butterfly Parasite (Cotesia glomerata). I recall raising caterpillars as a small boy when usually most of them died due to these wasps. That was in Switzerland, where the species is common. It took a while to sight adult butterflies up north in Finland. Pretty soon after seeing them fly I also humbled into caterpillars, lots of them.

I grabbed a hand full of caterpillars home for raising. It will be nice to get them over winter by keeping the chrysalises in the fridge. Normally, the Large White is known as a migrating species in Scandinavia. Most winters are too harsh for the butterfly to survive, and it takes until late summer again for the next generation to arrive from South.

An interesting observation while raising the caterpillars this time was that none of them were affected by parasites. All 27 caterpillars made it to pupae, and they’re now hibernating in the artificial, mild winter of our fridge. It felt like the butterfly’s enemy, the White Butterfly Parasite, didn’t make it at all to Finland that year.

Raising the Black-veined White

In case of the Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi) I got young caterpillars from a friend. Usually, I prefer finding the eggs or caterpillars on my own in the wild. Finding what you’ve been searching for gives a great kick. Nevertheless, I never had contact with this species and wanted to get to know more about these beautiful whites.

Raising the Green Hairstreak

End of May 2015 I spent one Saturday searching for caterpillars of the Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia). I found none. Nevertheless, on the search I bumped into a forest completely covered by growth of Lingonberry and Blueberry. Green Hairstreak butterflies (Callophrys rubi) were enjoying the warm sun.

The Green Hairstreak is one of the most common butterflies in Finland. Tracking down caterpillars, however, is not that easy. After one of the Hairstreaks took a quick rest on a branch of Lingonberry I couldn’t resist turning the leafs upside down. There is was, a single but clean white dot. A fresh egg.

Raising that egg has provided me a lot of joy during summer. I kept the caterpillar on potted Lingonberry. While the plant was on blossom, the caterpillar enjoyed its feast. The butterfly will hatch in late spring 2016.

Edit (March 20, 2016): Added photos of the hatched butterfly

Raising the Orange Tip

Late in spring I love when the first Orange Tip butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) start appearing. The orange color of the male butterflies is something that I’ve enjoyed already as a small boy.

Season 2015 I set myself the target to raise this species. Finding the first egg one a great feeling. It turned out to be rather easy after that to locate many more. Even mid-sized to adult caterpillars (once you know where eggs where laid a couple weeks earlier).

Here’s a couple shots from adult caterpillars and the chrysalis.

Raising the Brown Hairstreak

To raise the Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) has been a particular joy in 2015. After collecting eggs in the wild (see this post) I had the chance to see one of the caterpillars hatch from the egg while capturing the moment with my camera.

Place a decent twig of food plant in the cage and you’ll have a true meditation moment whenever you try to find the well hidden caterpillar on the bottom side of a leaf. Also the chrysalis can hardly be found. I definitely suggest this species to anyone who likes raising caterpillars that like to hide themselves.