Sixty five years is a long time to wait to see a new phenomenon, but last night I enjoyed this experience. I was pottering in from setting the moth trap as dusk drew in, when I noticed a slightly unusual petal on a white daffodil. Looking closer, I saw that it was the beautifully green-flecked underwing of an Orange Tip butterfly, fast asleep on the flower.
I took the photograph above and crept off. This morning I nipped out to check and there the insect still was, as in the picture below. It is interesting to think how many of these little creatures are slumbering around us in this way, unseen. The number will run into many millions.
I am familiar, I should add, with sleeping butterflies in the shape of hibernating species which have featured on the blog on quite a few occasions. The Tortoiseshells and Peacocks disturbed in theatres, for instance, by the opening of the vast stage curtains which make a perfect wintering home. They are famously seen as good omens for new productions in the Spring, a tradition which perhaps should not be troubled by dry entomological reasoning.
Here are some of our current hibernators; lusciously sunny though the days are, we are getting frosts at night and so they are maybe well-advised to sleep on for a while. Not that the cold troubled my Orange Tip. After a little gentle prodding this morning, it fluttered prettily away.
I tickled the Peacock in the first picture, to tempt it into showing its glorious topwings rather than the austerely well-camouflaged underside which is all that you normally see in a hibernating example. Perhaps I should have let it sleep on, because I came across the second pair immediately afterwards: one in the conventional position and the other splayed open; lovely but alas dead, victim of the hibernators' great enemy, a spider.
The final picture is of a sleeping Small Tortoiseshell, many of whose livelier relations were flitting about on a sunny walk I took yesterday to reconnoitre a route for our parish's Beating of the Bounds next month. I also saw Peacocks, Holly Blues, Brimstones, Orange Tips, Commas and Speckled Woods. Vintage Spring weather for butterflies, yum!