Taking The Pulse of Nature

posted in: Gardening | 17
Have you recently seen a Small Tortosieshell Butterfly (Aglais urticae) in your locality?  Their numbers are dwindling every year here in the UK due to a newly colonised parasitoid fly from the continent called Sturmia bella which is killing the Tortoiseshell caterpillars.  In the last 10 years these butterflies have declined by approximately 50% through the worst decline is in Southern England.

The butterfly lays its eggs on stinging nettles which the Small Tortoiseshell caterpillar feeds on but unfortunately Sturmia bella eggs are also laid on the nettles.  Its thought that the caterpillars are eating these eggs along with the leaves which hatch and develop inside them until maggot stage when the caterpillars are literally eaten inside out.


small tortoiseshell butterfly
A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly in my garden
click to enlarge to see the lovely blue crescents on the wings

I’m glad to say that I’ve seen quite a few of  them recently…….. a few in my garden and some while out walking.

common wave moth
Common Wave Moth
A Comma Butterfly nectaring on some Inula flowers
A Comma Butterfly  nectaring on some Inula flowers

This one is called a Comma  and it was my first time ever to see one of these.  It  was nectaring in Lady Stormonts wildlife and butterfly garden at Scone Palace.

Other wildlife I’ve sighted recently are as follows:


 A little bee nectaring on the final pulmonaria blooms in the garden
 A little bee nectaring on the final pulmonaria blooms in the garden

The Pulmonarias are fantastic plants to grow in the garden for the early spring pollinators in the garden.  I grow so many of the newer varieties but overall it’s the common old fashioned Pulmonaria that these bees much prefer.

Hogweed Bonking Beetle known also as common soldier beetle There’s a bit of intimacy going on today so let me introduce you to the Hogweed Bonking Beetle.

Seriously this one of the common names for these beetles while another name is Soldier Beetles due to their red colour looking like a soldiers uniform.
As I was walking along Perth lade one day every single Hogweed plant that I walked past had quite a number of these little Rhagonycha fulva on the white flowers.   Lets just say that most of them were not basking in the sunshine but had other things on their mind.

Seemingly they can predict thunderstorms. If you see them leaving the flowers and heading to take cover under the leaves then a thunderstorm is approaching within a few hours. 

marmalade fly
A little marmalade fly – around these parts the air is full of them just now!

That’s all for now and thanks for the visit.

Rosie Nixon
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Rosie is based in Perth, Perthshire as a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the Scottish outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at the only photographic gallery in Scotland - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

17 Responses

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    Sue Swift

    I've just posted about butterfly declne too – I've hardly seen any, of any type this year.

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    thanks for this useful post Rosie. Butterflies were my first love and as a child remember their profusion. Even with Buddleia flowering now in the garden, have not seen a single one. Will keep a lookout from the 24th – it's my birthday so to see a tortoishell or my favourite red Admiral would be a treat indeed.

    Laura x

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    Curbstone Valley Farm

    Very helpful post Rosie. If I lived closer I'd love to help. It's rather sad how quickly things change in our environment. I remember hoards of butterflies in our garden in England as a child, especially on the Sedums when in bloom. My favorite was the Red Admiral. Between the bees, the lady birds, and the butterflies today, it's clear Nature is trying to tell us something.

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    We are lucky, in our garden every day we see so much butterfly, I love them, they are so beautiful.
    I like to put a lot of flowers for them, and to watch.

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    like that picture, too;-) thanks for your visit and nice comment- happy sunday night!

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    I have just spent half an hour trying and failing to identify the butterfly which I found in the study this afternoon and carefully put out of the window … I gave up and turned to blog reading instead, and there is a picture of it in the middle of your post! – not a butterfly at all (no wonder I couldn't find it), but a common wave moth.

    So thank you for that, and thank you also for the information about the butterfly count – I shall try to take part.

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    I hope you'll tell us what your counts are. This reminds me some of the backyard bird count we do in late winter. It seems like we don't see many butterflies around here either, especially as I read about other bloggers and all the butterflies they have visiting.

    I've had a hard time getting on your blog the last few days, I'm not sure if it's blogger or my computer. Either way I was glad I could visit today.

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    I'm so sad to hear this news, Rosie. It can be disheartening, to take the pulse of Nature lately. In some places, that pulse grows increasingly weak.

    I console myself that I do all I can to strengthen it, and to encourage our connection to it. It is vital that, as the species with the most responsibility for her weakened condition, we awaken to our interdependence with all living things.

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    Rosie – So sad about the butterflies! We are having a banner year for them here in Connecticut, and I'm wondering if it relates somehow to the lush growth and early flowers brought on by lots of early rain and warmth this spring. Good luck with your count!

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    Such a pretty butterfly and so sad that is on the decline. I would do the count if I lived there. Thanks for the information.

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    I noticed the same thing. There use to be a lot of butterflies when we were younger. Now, whenever I visit the parks, there's hardly any… very few. I love your photo, it's so dainty. 🙂

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    I am sorry to hear this. Butterflies are so delightful. I would be very saddened if something happened to our butterfly population! I am reminded that everything is interconnected, and the loss of one link weakens the whole.

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    James Missier

    Haven't come across the Toitoiseshell yet, but mostly Lime butterflies around my garden.
    still, I find a lot of wildlife is slowly dimishing due to cutting of the rainforest for more development.
    Its a pity that most of birds, insects and even bats are now becoming a rare site in my place.

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    EG Wow

    Butterflies are in peril here in Ontario, Canada too – sad to say. Last year I saw very few all summer. However, already this has been a more promising year.

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    It's so upsetting how many pollinator species are in decline, but I'm glad to hear you are participating in butterfly counts to help. I wish I could offer my stinging nettles to your Small Tortoiseshells! Though I suspect that we have butterflies here that rely on it, too…

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