A Butterfly Diary: May

AlexisBläuling2

Best-known for his carol “Hark the herald angels sing”, Reginald Heber was also a poet. His poem “The Harebell” is absolutely perfect for the view I had the day I photographed this beautiful butterfly…

 With drooping bells of clearest blue
Thou didst attract my childish view,
Almost resembling
The azure butterflies that flew
Where on the heath thy blossoms grew
So lightly trembling.

~

 Green-Underside Blue (Glaucopsyche alexis or Alexis-Bläuling in German)

AlexisBläuling(Click on the photos for a closer look)

They are one of the gossamer-winged butterflies, flying from May to June, and in good weather again in July and August. The meadow where I found this one in early May (and there were several flying around me) is the perfect habitat, with plenty of nectar-rich wild flowers such as vetch, clover and harebells.

The wingspan of this one was just about 2cm. We have a few blue butterflies here, but I have never seen such a pretty one before.

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The more common one here is the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus, Hauhechel-Bläuling)

Hauhechelbläuling

Its wingspan is only about 2.5cm, and it has beautiful orange and brown markings on the outer wings. The male is more distinctive than the female, and they can be seen all through the summer. They have been in the garden since early May this year. The Common Blue likes all sorts of vetch and clover, but I love the fact that a favourite of theirs is the Ononis spinosa (Spiny Restharrow/Hauhechel), which is one of the only thorny plants I gladly grow!

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Around the 10th of May I spotted this Fritillary and decided it must be a Weaver’s Fritillary (Boloria dia, Magerrasen-Perlmuttfalter)

WeaversFritillary

(The photo was taken on a green mat, it’s not the lawn!)

I know very little about this butterfly although we often see it, but according to Wikipedia the larvae feed on Prunella and Violets, so again I have some good plants for these in my garden. The wingspan of this one is perhaps 3 or 4cm. The orange colour varies – some of them look much browner, but with the same markings.

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In the middle of the month this brown butterfly made a brief appearance and I haven’t seen it since: a Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa, Rundaugen-Mohrenfalter)

WoodlandRinglet

The wings were very silky and the wingspan about 4 cm. I have looked it up and they fly from May to July, while their habitat is the edges of woodland, dry and chalky hillsides and in mountain meadows.

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The last one I could photograph towards the end of the month was the Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae, Kleiner Fuchs).

Tortoiseshell2

The Centranthus is opening and these fairly large butterflies (3-4cm) are attracted to its red flowers. They will be in the garden all year – the first are in March on the spring flowers, and the last love to visit the Sedum and Asters in autumn.

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Other butterflies spotted were the Brimstones and Orange Tips as well as the Green-Veined White. I also briefly saw the first Hummingbird Hawk-Moths in a warm spell, just as the Centranthus was opening – they will be back and I hope to get some photos of them.

A few other flying vistors made an appearance too. Firstly this Large Red Damselfly…

RedDamselfly

then this tiny dragonfly…

Libelle

And finally this amazing creature!

Plattbauch2

It liked my metal butterfly decoration! I found out that it is a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly (Libellula depressa, Plattbauch) and is one of the most common dragonflies in Europe. This is a young male, with a blue tinge to the abdomen, and yellow patches which can also be seen clearly. It is pretty big – about 7 cm long and the abdomen as thick as my little finger. The Wikipedia page has lots of information on this dragonfly – perhaps you see it too?

That’s it for May – not bad, as The June Gap usually makes itself felt at the end of May and early June, when the spring generation fades away and the new summer generations are yet to emerge. (See Sarah’s post from last year on The June Gap at The Garden Deli).

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Finally, some words from the late poet and human rights activist, Maya Angelou:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

~

Have you seen many butterflies so far this spring? What is the most common one near you at this time of year? Please share!

Links:

The June Gap

Big Butterfly Count (UK)

Identifying Butterflies etc (UK)

The Guardian – Dragonfly Gallery