Up close and personal with God’s creation

My husband and I have a bit of a thing about insects. If we can get up close to them, we love to photograph them, as only that way can you see the beautiful detail and colouring that so many of them boast. Until today our best success of the year was the husbands fab Stag Beetle in flight (I held the torch!)

Then today, there I am out on my own on the usual dog walk, with the worst camera in the family in my pocket, and I see something new in the grass; a butterfly I can’t easily identify because I’ve never seen one like it before.

I reach for the camera, and the dog dashes over enthusiastically wanting the stick thrown, knocking what seems to be fairly newly hatched flutterby further down among the grass. Stick thrown, dog shouted at, I reach down and lift out this little beauty:

Up close and personal with a Purple Hairstreak

It took me about 15 minutes struggling with a camera I didn’t know, grass stem or butterfly in/on one hand, camera in other, to get these shots of a Purple Hairstreak.

According to my book they are scarce or have scattered distribution, and usually live high among the treetops of oakwoods. This is presumably why I’ve never seen one before – I don’t spend much time high up in oak trees! I suspect this specimen was newly hatched, and/or with a slight kink in the right wing, perhaps not flying strongly? It could be classed as early specimen (just) as the book notes it as appearing July-August.

Caterpillar of the 6 Spot Burnet

Last night my husband and I actually shared an evening dog walk (a mid-week rarity). For the first time this year we spotted the caterpillar and chrysalis forms of Six Spot Burnet moths whose life cycle we’ve followed in previous years, though we’ve not really monitored their emergence dates before.

However they are late this year (I’ve just found some photo’s last year dated 5th June), and in short supply, but we’re noting it here for comparison in future years. There’s a photo of the adults mating here taken a couple of years ago.

The thing we’ve never sussed is whether they overwinter as eggs or mini caterpillars, and whichever option, where do they overwinter?!

Cocoon in which the 6 Spot Burnet caterpillar pupates

The other thing in short supply are Ringlets. In 2009 we spotted them first on June 20th though they were late last year after ‘the’ field was grazed for the first time in several years. This year they are there, just a few, but in short supply, and easily missed among the more numerous Meadow Browns. We think they are scarcer in the last two years because of the fact the field is now occasionally grazed – this year in late spring. Always flighty we’ve not managed to photograph one yet this year.

There are plenty of Little Skipper’s around in the field, and a few Common Blue’s out on the back of Blackbushe Airport where we find the Burnet’s.

We’re in ‘always carrying a camera’ mode this time of year, and soon the school holiday’s come, so we should get more photo’s – though doing so will probably test the patience of our son!

(The book we have is ‘Collins Guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe’ by Michael Chinery – 1986 Edition with paintings. The up to date edition uses photographs.)



  1. To follow up the burnet/winter theme have a read of the very detailed account in the The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland (Vol. 2) edited by J Heath and A M Emmet (library?). The caterpillars adopt complex and varied strategies. Variations in numbers probably reflect the build up of parasites in the local colony. Such variations have been commented on in recent posts on the Yahoo UKmoths discussion site regarding Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet


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