A friend who stayed recently has been in touch with these pictures of his hop plants - and, of more interest to me, their current inhabitants. Fortunately he is not a brewer and does not depend on the hops for his living, for these are Comma butterfly caterpillars and chrysalises, a species which munches hops as if there was no tomorrow.
By coincidence, I was admiring an adult Comma in the garden only on Wednesday as it flitted about in the sunshine, showing off its glorious, vivid russet colouring. This always sets my pulse racing in case the butterfly is one of the fritillaries, those aristocrats of the insect world which share the Comma's colours. Here are some examples of Commas from earlier blog posts:
The other cheering thing about the Comma is that its recovery from meagre numbers in the 19th century is one of the great success stories of UK butterflies. You can read more on this previous post - http://martinsmoths.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/friends-reunited.html - as well as about the role in the story of a distinguished woman entomologist, Edith Hutchinson, pictured below. The magazine of Butterfly Conservation in her native county of Warwickshire is appropriately named - see right - and the best-known variant of the Comma, the paler form common in early Summer, is named after her - variety hutchinsonii.