Male vs. female

Some species of butterflies are known for sexual dimorphism. The different appearance of male and female individuals are most commonly visible on the adult butterflies. However, since the chrysalis of some butterflies turns transparent before the adult hatches, the differences can become visible already.

During winter 2015/2016 I kept chrysalises from the Large White (Pieris brassicae) and the Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines). Both species have sexual dimorphism, especially the Orange Tip where the orange color is only present on the male’s wings. In case of the Large White the black dots are only present on the female’s wings.

I managed to get some photos from chrysalises of both sexes prior to hatching. Here’s how easy the gender can be identified (once the pupa turns transparent). The photos of the adult Orange Tips are from the wild but added as a further reference to show the difference between female and male.

Becoming a butterfly

Most people take butterflies for granted. They may also not care about the long journey a butterfly has past before ever taking off with their wings. Nevertheless, in case of the Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) it takes almost a year before the butterfly has completed the metamorphosis. The adult butterfly will live a couple weeks, copulate, lay eggs and die.

Following the metamorphosis close by means a lot of work. Most likely, the butterflies need to be raised with a lot of care. Dealing with the Purple Hairstreak, the eggs need to be searched and found in autumn. After that, these eggs need to be stored for hibernation. This phase may take up to 8 months. In spring, the tiny caterpillars will hatch. In summer, finally, the butterflies will hatch and show their beauty.

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.

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.

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.

Beautiful caterpillars: The Small Emperor Moth

The Small Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia) is one of the most gigantic domestic species to the fauna in Finland. This counts not only for the adult moth but especially for it’s caterpillars. Here’s only a couple photos from the caterpillars I raised last summer after receiving eggs from a friend. Right now, the cocoons rest for diapause. The adult moths will hatch early summer 2016.

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.