Birds and bees…

…and butterflies.

A male large white butterfly (Pieris brassicae, aka the ‘cabbage white’) zeroing in on a potential mate…

I normally try to avoid taking photographs of UK wildlife on imported garden plants, in this case buddleia, species of which grow endemically on several continents, and I believe our UK variety arrived here from the Himalayas.

No longer anything ‘potential’ about her!

But in this instance the drama was so compelling (and I was testing out my new macro zoom that I introduced in the last post) so I decided to share this sequence.

Several mating events ensued after which the male settled on a lower flowerhead to sip nectar and replenish his energy reserves:

The large white, along with the small white (Pieris rapae), are known as the ‘cabbage whites‘ because they lay their eggs on members of the cabbage family and the caterpillars can do a lot of damage to cultivated cabbages. But I’m quite happy to share my cabbage allowance with them and I love to see them fluttering through my garden and along the hedgerows.

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18 responses to “Birds and bees…

  1. Beautiful and impressive photographs Finn. I share your feelings about native plants, but there are some invaders, such as buddleia that provide much valuable nectar to butterflies when there’s not much else about. Cotoneaster’s another one – it sneaks into the wild areas and has to be removed of course, but recently I came upon a flowering one that was virtually covered with little worker bumblebees. I think we care about the aesthetics far more than the wildlife does!

    • Hello Theresa, I’m busy apologising to folk who have been kind enough to leave comments here which I haven’t picked up for far too long. So apologies to you too!

      I know what you mean about buddleia, I shouldn’t like it, but I can’t help myself because it provides so much sustenance for our native Lepidoptera.

      On which subject, I was out in my local fields this weekend and the margins were absolutely FULL of butterflies. The last time I saw them here in such abundance was in 2010. There were small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, ringlet, small white (probably large white and possibly green veined white too), small skipper and peacock, and lots of them. There were also blue damselflies and either a female or juvenile common darter dragonfly too! This is turning into a good year for the Arthropods. Have you noticed large numbers of swifts in your part of the world as well?

  2. Not only do we have imported buddleias going nuts in our Tassie wilderness but we have both of those species of cabbage moths…obviously imported because you can bet your LIFE that cabbages are NOT something that grows naturally in Australian conditions ;)

    • Hello Fran, you’ve just made me realise how behind I am. Your comment is two weeks old and I’ve only just seen it, which is atrocious so I apologise! Isn’t it incredible though how we manage to translocate so many species around the globe, wilfully or otherwise, I guess neither buddleia nor the white butterflies, like cabbages, are native to Tassie?

      • Nope, but they are most appreciated (especially when you forgot to put any brassica’s in to your winter garden and you are laughing at them as they go hunting ;) )

      • Wow, can you believe that – real time blog commenting. What hour of the day is it where you are?

        My garden had buddleia but no brassicas too… but still lots of whites, thankfully.

      • Just prior to 7am when I tapped that in :) It’s very cathartic to have forgotten to plant brassicas and the white cabbage moths are buzzing around hunting for them. I am sure that there is something that they can nibble on up there but at least my omission wasn’t for naught ;)

      • I guess so, they wouldn’t stick around if there wasn’t.

        7am? That’s early-bird blogging – I’m still zzz’ing at that time :-)

  3. I have always thought of “cabbage whites” as boring and a pest, but you have made them appear beautiful and interesting!
    As for Buddleia, we have just dug out a very old one, I think of the same very “common” sort you have pictured – and replaced it with another one just the same, as it is so hardy and attracts peacock butterflies to our garden.
    Keep up the good work :)

    • Will do! That buddleia really does attract the butterflies. I’ve got a post coming up in the near future featuring just a few of the butterflies on just such a buddleia when I was on the Isle of Wight last year. It was completely festooned with ‘em.

  4. Super close-ups, Finn. Your stance of featuring indigenous plants when photographing wildlife is an interesting one. When I started my blog, featuring typical English plants was something I wanted to do.. Since then, the artistic and aesthetic quality of all plants has taken over but recently I have felt drawn once again to English – and particularly wild – plants (sometimes sadly labelled ‘weeds’ :-)).

    • Thanks Meanderer. I know what you mean about not being insular regarding the flora, there are some wonderful imports. I heard a while ago though that whilst the indigenous oak hosts hundreds of other species of plants, lichens, fungi, insects, birds and mammals, the horse chestnut (which is an utterly spectacular tree) was imported to the UK by the Romans and hosts I think it was six other species. So I’m try to come at this more from a biodiversity perspective.

      And I don’t buy this idea of ‘weeds’ either. I completed my wildlife pond a couple of months ago and I’ve allowed the grass to grow tall around it, and even in that short time it’s become full of lovely wild flowers which I never got to see previously. Flowers that others may mistakenly refer to as ‘weeds’ ;-)

  5. ………..and I am not sure about sharing my potted herbs growing on my balcony with them either, Finn.
    Pesky little caterpillars decimate my herbs every summer and I usually end up wasting money on fresh seedlings each Spring.

    Great closeups though. That zoom macro seems to be a very worthy addition to the photography shelf – excellent detail.

  6. I am not sure about sharing my purple sprouting broccoli with them though. Well actually we didn’t have much choice in the matter :-)

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