Friday, 2 September 2016

Insect mini-series: SMALL TORTOISESHELL BUTTERFLY

It was all a bit much. Bad enough that he had to endure all the other Small Tortoiseshells muscling in on his chosen Buddleia, but the Peacock interloper was one lepidoptera too far.


West Cork, Ireland


He watched the activity from his solitary perch with a jaundiced compound eye. The other Tortoiseshells were feeding close together, probing the flowers for nectar with their long proboscises. When the Peacock arrived they had merely budged up a bit. 

He, on the other hand, had flown off to an upper level.



It didn’t take him long to realise the advantages of his elevated position: he could observe the females and spot likely candidates to lure into his territory close to the nettle patch.

The nettles played an important role in the mating business because female Small Tortoiseshells preferred to lay their eggs on the underside of nettle leaves. The territory he had already scouted out beside the nettles was surely irresistible.

Etiquette dictated that he should wait in his territory until a female entered it before he started wooing her. However, if he spotted a potential mate, perhaps he could make an early start at the courtship procedure on the Buddleia itself. He hadn’t tried this strategy before. It was risky. Courtship entailed approaching a female from behind and drumming his antennae on her hindwings. She wouldn’t be expecting it while she was feeding and might react as if she’d been goosed. Still… he who dares…



A fetching looking female alighted to feed on a flower below him. He landed beside her. Now he just had to summon his courage.




Do let me know if you're enjoying my insect series. See you in a couple of weeks.

34 comments:

  1. This is just lovely and I, for one, am enjoying it very much. In my latest book, one of my characters is creating a butterfly garden and I have been loving doing research on it. I loved your little tale...

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  2. Thank you, Kathleen. I enjoy researching these subjects and then crafting stories from the research - in conjunction with my photos. Nice to know you're enjoying the stories.

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  3. I'm cheering him on, Susan! I love the imagination of this series. :)

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    1. Thank you, Jo. It's the research, coupled with the photos that give me the story ideas. :)

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  4. Very much enjoying the series indeed Susan. I love the humanization you bring to the insects while teaching so much about each of them.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I think it makes it more fun and challenging to try write from the insect's point of view.

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  5. Ahh, courtship.
    As always, loved the story and the pics, Susan.
    Enjoy your weekend;)

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  6. Thanks, Sandra. Weekend has been good... apart from the wet weather!

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  7. This year has brought more than the usual number of butterflies to our yard and I have really enjoyed watching them. But none as fuzzy as that one! I don't think I've ever seen such a fuzzy butterfly. I'm crossing my fingers that she likes him ;)

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  8. I'd say he's in with a good chance, Tracy. :)

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    1. Thank you - they're beautiful, aren't they?

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  10. I've enjoyed every one of your insect stories so far, and admire the research that is evident in your tales. I would like to know how this brave butterfly got on, though - you left us guessing!

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    1. He he - I'd say that if he was bold enough to try a different strategy, he was probably bold enough to succeed! :)

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  11. At least we're seeing some now... I counted four on a patch of dandilion only days ago! Let's hope they get to lay many thousands of eggs and that we have a better showing next year!

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    1. That's good to hear, AJ. Butterflies have been much depleted this year, haven't they?

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  12. At least we're seeing some now... I counted four on a patch of dandilion only days ago! Let's hope they get to lay many thousands of eggs and that we have a better showing next year!

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  13. I love butterflies. Their limited numbers in the past were beginning to worry me. Now, they seem to be on the rise again. Yay!

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    1. Yes, they are the beautiful stars of the insect world!

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  14. These butterfly photos are wonderful! Not always easy to get a shot of them.

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    1. Hi, Darlene - thanks for dropping in. Yes, photographing flying insects takes a lot of patience sometimes! :)

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  15. They're such lovely creatures. I think he has a pretty good chance, a good-looking young fellow like that. Will she be swept off her (six) feet? Be a butterfly whose heart is aflutter?

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    1. Absolutely, Bun - surely she'll accept his advances! :)

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  16. Hi Susan, I stopped in to visit too :)
    I'm not a big fan of bugs, but I do make exceptions for butterflies!! Enjoyed the commentary you attached as well.

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  17. Hi, Joanne - thanks for dropping in. Glad you enjoyed this post - and don't worry - I write about other subjects too, not just bugs. :)

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  19. Oh my! What a delightful little story! Lovely pictures. And you might be right, great minds think alike as there are butterflies on my blog as well. Have a wonderful week!

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  20. Hi Bish - yes, the ones on your blog post this week are gorgeous! :)

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  21. I absolutely love butterflies, Susan. What a wonderful story :)

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  22. Thanks, Dianne. Of course, you have some beauties over your way too... I remember the first time I saw the gorgeous Ulysses butterflies in Northern Queensland! :)

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  23. Hi stranger! Thanks for commenting... loved your post on South Africa by the way. :)

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