Wanted: For Crimes Against My Brassicas!

So, the sun is finally making an appearance and warming the air (in my opinion a little too much at times), allowing the butterflies to come out without fear of drowning.  It is high Summer, the buddlejia is flowering, the sky is sometimes blue and the garden is brought to life by the droning of bees (although reportedly fewer than in previous years) and the fluttering of delicate wings looking for some nectar producing plants on which to land.  

Oh and the evil white butterflies that don’t stop long enough for me to take a picture, who are not looking for nectar.  No, they are looking for my young cavolo nero that I am growing for the winter.  They hunt round and round, stopping only briefly when they spot something in the brassica family that they can oviposit on (is that a verb – not sure?).  

Many an allotment is covered in netting to keep these devil insects at bay, but, should I use these in the garden – not very pretty!  I am resorting to regular checks of my plants.  This is where I may have the advantage over the allotment holders, I only have eight plants, and so a regular check is not so time consuming.  So far I have been evaded by two caterpillars who munched their way through the majority of two plants, but, in the main I have managed to remove most of the eggs.  If this doesn’t work this year I may have to resort to a shotgun next year!  I have included a couple of pictures below of the white butterfly that is out to get my brassicas (not the actual one, I have had to resort to a picture that  I took the other year) and the reason they are so naughty.

Unexpected Visitor

I have been eagerly awaiting June and July when more of my garden flowers will be in bloom and I expect more butterflies (assuming that the weather is better than last Summer!).  Last week I had a pleasant surprise when I saw a blue butterfly in my garden fluttering around and rarely stopping (hence the poor quality photograph).  This was particularly surprising as I associate blue butterflies with chalk areas, not with the claggy clay of Northamptonshire.

  Holly Blue Butterfly 1                                Holly Blue Butterfly 2 

I looked the butterfly up in my insect book and discovered that identification was easier than I had expected owing to the fact that both the top and the underside of its wings were blue (most have brown undersides).  This, and the fact that it was spending most of its time flitting about the holly bushes (doh!) led to the conclusion that it was a Holly Blue (celastrina argiolus).  These are more common than I realised (having never seen one before.  As the name suggests they lay their eggs mainly on holly bushes (we now have 5 of these so this could explain its sudden appearance) where the caterpillars feed on the flowers of the aforementioned shrubs.  In Summer when hollies are not in flower or when there is a dearth of holly they will make do with other shrubs such as dogwood (grows well on clay), gorse and bramble (not good as I have recently planted a blackberry in my fruit corner of the garden).

I think I will trade a few holly flowers and berries for a few blue butterflies to lighten up the Spring days, I just have to be ready to get a better photograph next time!

Natural Highlights to the Working Day

I have been particularly busy at work this week due to customer demands and staff absences. This has been made worse by the warm air and the blue sky taunting me from outside.

However, when taking a breather and having a look out across the car park and the small amount of green edging the site I spotted a couple of invaders – red-legged partridges. Now I realise that these are pretty common, but it was the pleasure that seeing them somewhere unexpected that made them special. They were running at some speed across the car park – spooked by the incoming lorries, at one point passing about 10 feet in front of my window. Added to that was the joy that pointing these out to someone else brought (especially as he thinks that I make the birds up).

Whilst I was trying to see where they had gone to I had the unexpected bonus of seeing my first Brimstone butterflies of the year dancing in the air near a pair of carrion crows picking up nesting materials.

Highlights like this almost make it worthwhile going to work.

Butterfly World

Just a quick post about an article I read in the Times today (p3) about a butterfly conservation project. A new project is underway to build ‘Butterfly World’ near St Albans which will open in 2011 and is envisaged as a sanctuary for British butterflies, many of which are under threat. The site will contain an Eden-project type dome to house tropical butterflies and will be surrounded by gardens designed to stop the decline of British butterflies.

According to the article three quarters of the 54 resident species of British butterflies have declined in the last 20 years.

For more information about British butterflies and how you can help protect them then the Butterfly Conservation web page has lots of useful information.