‘The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough,’ wrote Bengali Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore – perhaps a lesson for us all.
The first butterflies of spring-summer 2016 have now begun fluttering around me when I’m out walking. Like the bees and the hoverflies, I find they add an extra dimension to my wanderings, a whisper of magic, a hint of fairies …
The Small white (Pieris rapae) was the first butterfly I saw, a couple of weeks ago, during a walk around Cardiff Bay, but it eluded my attempts to photograph it. Both this and the Large white are known as the ‘Cabbage Whites’ for the damage their caterpillars do to the cabbage and other vegetable plants; I have childhood memories of my father regularly checking the undersides of his cabbage leaves and cursing those caterpillars! Though this butterfly has been known to fly as far as 100 miles in its lifetime, it couldn’t fly to New Zealand – in the days before strict agricultural border controls, it was accidentally introduced there, to Australia and to North America.
What a glorious creature the Peacock butterfly is and how lovely it looks on this blackthorn blossom, though this Peacock has seen better days; it’s a little faded and has parts of its wings missing. Aglais io gets its common name, obviously, from the unmistakable ‘eyes’ on its wings, so reminiscent of a peacock’s spectacular tail, but its underwings are quite the opposite, dark and easily mistaken for dead leaves in a woodland setting.
The Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) is the butterfly I’ve seen most often in the past couple of weeks, in the woodlands of Cosmeston and Bute Park and also in tree-filled Cathays Cemetery, where the two shown together above charmed me with their delicate spiralling dance. Is it love or the love of the chase, I wonder?