Tuesday, 4 August 2015

An unexpected leaf


I was singing the praises of buddleia the other day, as the only one of the various plants advertised in garden centres as 'butterfly bushes' to live up to the name. But although I am used to Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, Commas and the rest of the usual gang feeding voraciously on the purple fronds, I would never have expected to find this character, above.

Assuming that you have been reading carefully, you will recognise it as a Leaf Butterfly, Kalima inachus, which featured on the blog two weeks agao when we took some Sri Lankan friends to Blenheim Palace butterfly house. I described then how a local butterfly enthusiast had spotted another exotic, the Blue Diadem aka Hypolimnas missipus, nectaring on hanging baskets in Blenheim's neighbouring townlet, Woodstock. Well this Leaf Butterfly is another bold escaper.

Its finder was a very nice friend of ours who lives just up the road and is the local butterfly recorder. What a coincidence that the Leaf should choose her buddleia? No. She is both knowledgable enough to spot it, in spite of its excellent camouflage, and she has the ability to look for butterflies, and other wildlife, which so many of us do not. Hence the widespread misapprehension that there aren't any left, but I won't jump on to that hobby horse again.

The picture above shows the Leaf spreading its entirely different and impressive topwings; as opposed to the camouflage, these are a 'shock' defence like the familiar British Peacock butterfly's 'eyes'. Flashed open, they have the effect of alarming a predator for just long enough for the butterfly to escape or hide.

The butterfly house staff were surprised and delighted when our friend returned the Leaf to them in a margarine cartoon, perfectly well after its two-mile wander on the loose. When you leave the greenhouse, they ask you to check your back in a mirror in case one of the occupants has hitched a ride. But a few still manage to escape.

And now, at last, moths...

This glider-like flying object is the White Plume, a particularly delicate member of a lovely family of micromoths which hold their wings out in the shape of a T-shirt. Here are some pictures, and you may well find the actual moth if you potter along a hedge or lane bordered by bindweed. White Plumes are easily disturbed by day.

Because of all the butterfly excitement, I didn't have time to investigate these other features of the eggboxes. Appropriately, they are eggs. At least the ones in the first picture are, with one of them looking as though it has either hatched or been raided by a sharp-beaked predator.

The second looks like some sort of protective covering for a cluster of mini-eggs, albeit sadly not the Cadbury's kind.  Let's hope they hatch successfully in due course (while my remaining Emperor Moth cocoons snooze peacefully into their second autumn of hibernation).

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