Tag Archive: Small White

A Butterfly in December

Some butterflies, such as the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma, Brimstone and Red Admiral, hibernate as adults over the winter. Others, such as the Small White, don’t. Pity no-one told this one.

Small White, Highfield Drive, 28 Nov 2012

Well that was smart

Two Wednesdays ago, my mum found this fellow fluttering about in our back entrance hall.  He was pristine, with the scale fringe on his wings unspoilt, so he had obviously just emerged from his chrysalis and finished drying his wings. In the wild, Small White butterflies (Pieris rapae) hibernate in the chrysalis stage, suspended from a hard vertical surface.

Evidently, a caterpillar from my garden must have found its way indoors and pupated, but when the expected winter didn’t materialise, gone ahead with metamorphosis and emerged when it did, in late November.

Or, it escaped from a broccoli from Tesco.

Either way, it’s doing quite well in our back window, with sugary fluid to drink and an occasional period under an incandescent lamp to warm it up. It’s now 11 days old.

Small White, Highfield Drive, 28 Nov 2012

Here’s looking at you

Small White, Highfield Drive, 01 Dec 2012

Opening his wings to bask under the lamp. The fact that he has one black spot on each forewing shows he’s a he – the female has two.

Small White, Highfield Drive, 08 Dec 2012

Still going strong

Small White, Highfield Drive, 08 Dec 2012

His “butterfly house” – a windowsill covered with a net curtain, oriented to catch the afternoon sun. You can see him basking under the lamp.

You can find out more about this butterfly at the UK Butterflies site:


Where’s Wally?


I took a trip to Sheepland, on the coast near Ardglass, Co. Down, yesterday, and the butterflies were so brilliant that the only shot I got of the scenery was this fence – and even that was only to get the kestrel hovering behind it.

My main purpose for the trip was to see the Wall Brown, a sun-loving butterfly that gets its name from its habit of sunbathing on walls and other warm places. In Northern Ireland it is only found along the South Down Coast, particularly at Sheepland, and between Ardglass and St Patrick’s Well. There was also a record from Kilkeel last year. After some correspondence with Ian Rippey, the chairman of BCNI, I carped the next sunny diem and headed off to see the Wall in its second brood.

To cut a long story short, it was towards the end of my visit, at 3:25, that I assaulted a stile, descended into a sheltered cove and saw two pristine Wall Browns, a male and a female, fluttering about on a rock face.

I hope nobody was around to hear my ecstatic YES!!!! 

17AUG11 Wall Brown male

The pair didn’t stay together for long though, and certainly not long enough to get a decent photo – the male (above) took a sip of knapweed and then made off away from the rock face, leaving me with the diva, who made me, the paparazzi, work to get a photo of her. She stayed high up on the face. I had to climb to get near her, and she was quite skittish. It didn’t help that she was being harassed by a Small Copper; and the resident Peacock must have been getting jealous because he landed slap bang under my nose as I was stalking her with the camera. He insisted on having his photo taken, and threatened to beat me up if I didn’t. I diplomatically obliged.

17AUG11 Peacock

The Wall was basking quite a lot both on the rock and on the grass. After a look round the cove to see if there were any more (nada) I returned to the female and, after she’d landed on my trouser leg just to tease me, I finally got a close-up.

17AUG11 Wall Brown female


And the other butterflies were beautiful too – as well as the Wall Browns I saw:

2 Large White
6 Speckled Wood
3 Red Admiral
2 Peacock
4 Small White
4 Green-veined White
11 Small Copper
23 Meadow Brown
22 Grayling
1 Painted Lady
2 Small Tortoiseshell
2 Common Blue.

Thirteen species in a day – I think that equals my standing record.

The Painted Lady was the other highlight of the trip – it was so thirsty after its migration that it drank knapweed nectar for three hours straight (it was there when I arrived and there when I left). That allowed me to get a really decent photo for a change.

17AUG11 Painted Lady

Sheepland is also home to a thriving Grayling colony – to my amazement they were more common than Meadow Browns, my total coming to 22. There was quite a lot of boy-and-girl stuff going on – often I would see a female with her wings wide open, trying to dissuade an amorous male crawling through the grass after her. I took a good look at every one to check if it was a Wall, but of course when I actually saw Wally it was much smaller than both the Graylings and the Meadow Browns – more like Speckled Wood size (and you can see the resemblance between the two.) The Graylings here seemed to be a bit less camera-shy than the ones at Murlough.

17AUG11 Grayling

The Small Coppers were little gems as usual – I found one pair doing you-know-what while I was waiting for the sun to emerge at the beginning. My guess is the female is the exhausted-looking one on the bottom.

17AUG11 Small Copper pair

And lastly, a butterfly that in my opinion gets too much bad press and not enough compliments, as it really is quite neat and pretty, despite the fact that it’s invaded two continents and ravaged their brassicas.

17AUG11 Small White

I was going to say something poetic, but I’m not going to embarrass myself. It’s a photo of a Small White, take it or leave it.

          Ireland: 22

American Butterflies

(UPDATED 23 Aug 11, 25 Dec 11)

It’s about time I fulfilled my promise to write about American Butterflies. I saw 14 species on a family trip to Manassas, Virginia for a Bible conference last April, got some decent photos, and have finally got the time (and the motivation) to put them online.

The most common butterfly? No surprises: the Cabbage White, or as we know it, the Small White. This rather tatty individual was one of the few that let me get close enough.

23APR11 Cabbage (Small) White

The Sulphurs were very common too – probably a mix of Orange and Clouded Sulphurs but the Orange (with an orange flush on the upperwings, concealed at rest) were the only ones I could positively identify. This one was on Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park.

20APR11 Orange Sulphur

I was delighted to find my first-ever skippers in the grounds of the Four Points Hotel where we stayed in Manassas. They were most likely Juvenal’s Duskywings but Horace’s may have been there as well. JDs have a grey sheen on the wings, HDs don’t. I saw this one on a woodland road somewhere in Prince William County. (We got lost.)

21APR11 Juvernal's Duskywing

The American Lady greeted me one morning on a walk near the hotel.

24JUL11 American Lady

The tiniest butterfly I saw was the Eastern Tailed Blue.

24APR11 Eastern Tailed Blue

25APR11 Eastern Tailed Blue

Then I found this strange fellow on the hotel lawn. His wings are a bit deformed, so it took a while before I finally had him verified as a Common Checkered Skipper – but an aberration thereof, with much bigger white cells. (Not to be confused with the Scottish Chequered Skipper – the American Checkered Skippers are more closely related to our Grizzled Skipper.)

24APR11 Chequered Skipper aberration?

Aaaand this is a normal Common Checkered Skipper.

25APR11 Chequered Skipper

I had a ball on the last full day of the holiday, on the waste ground near the hotel. It was teeming with butterflies (and one Grey Catbird, which, amazingly, can teem all by itself.) Fluttering around juniper bushes was my first-ever hairstreak, and yes, you guessed it, it’s a Juniper Hairstreak. This one is definitely my favourite of the trip.

25APR11 Juniper Hairstreak

Also present was the tiny Pearl Crescent (I think it’s in the fritillary family)…

25APR11 Pearl Crescent

… plus, a white female Orange Sulphur laying eggs…

25APR11 Orange Sulphur white female

… AND the Gray Hairstreak, with very snazzy fluorescent orange flashes.

25APR11 Gray Hairstreak

And the next day in central Washington DC, this magnificent Eastern Comma landed on my dad’s-brother’s-wife’s-sister’s-daughter’s-handbag, and stayed there for a good five minutes. She called him Harry.

26JUL11 Eastern Comma

As a footnote, I saw two Swallowtail species at Brookside Resaurant, and neither of them were compliant with my camera, which is a pity as they were truly awesome. They were the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the Spicebush Swallowtail.

Not the most thorough trip report, I know, but I hope you enjoy the photos!


With my first day of GCSE exams under my belt, I’ll take the opportunity to share a few more photos.  I was delighted to find, that with the cotoneaster plants in bloom again in my garden, the moths were beginning to pay visits. This is the first one – an Angle Shades moth – one of which I reared from a caterpillar last year (I fed it rose leaves but it probably eats lots of other stuff).

6.5.11 Angle Shades moth

I’ve also been out running again in Glencairn Park, and found this male Orange Tip while I was counting this species’ eggs (over 100!) With it being cold, he wasn’t for going far, and I got him on my finger – magic!

7.5.11 Orange Tip male

And finally, in sunshine the next day, I found a Réal’s Wood White, which I didn’t realise were so close to home!

8.5.11 Réal's Wood White

Oh, and I saw my first Small Whites of the year – no photos though!