Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Taking the palm

Lying on the floor of our shed yesterday, this immaculate Small Tortoiseshell was either very sound asleep or dead. But if the latter, which seemed the likelier because of its total lack of reaction when gently lifted, then dead of what? There were no marks on its body or wings, no sign of a spider or web, in fact no suspicious circumstances at all.

Whatever the answer, its inertia gave me the chance of a close look at the ravishing colouring, made up of tiny scales which you can see in parts of the picture above. Being able to get so close meant that each little blue 'tile' shows up like a chip of mosaic - - and all are carefully hung to work tricks with the refraction and reflection of lights. 

You can see the godspel-writers point about lilies. Solomon in all his glory would have been hard put to out-dazzle a Small Tortoiseshell.

The underwing is designed more with camouflage in mind but still has a lovely complexity with the Greek sea-blue of the top wings converted to a darker, subtle tone.  This is one of the commonest butterflies in the UK and one of the most beautiful. Excellent material for a sermon, if any ministers, vicars or priests are taking a peep.

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