Some recent moments of butterfly courtship I’ve managed to catch on camera …
The dance of the Brimstones: the butter-yellow male flies in to check if the paler female is ready and willing to mate. And he’s in luck, so their (to human eyes) romantic dance begins, with the male whirling around the female, wafting his pheromones in her direction to encourage her to settle and let mating begin. This ‘dance’ can continue quite a while, as I discovered while watching this pair.
Mating was already underway when I spotted this pair of Green-veined whites. And it is not just sperm that is passing between them. The Butterfly Conservation website reports that the male also transfers ‘a so-called “nuptial gift” of nutrients that the female can assimilate and use to increase egg production. Exceptionally, male Green-veined Whites may transfer 25% of their own body mass to females during mating, though typically this is more like 15%.’
Sometimes males don’t know when to take ‘No’ for an answer! By pointing her abdomen in the air, this Orange-tip female is refusing to mate, presumably because she has already mated and needs to get on with the important task of egg-laying. But the male simply wasn’t getting the message and continued fluttering around the female, even landing on her outspread wings. Eventually, she flew off at speed to escape his advances.