Winter Butterfly 171214

Today I let a Peacock butterfly out of the window of my house. It is mid December but the weather is mild.

We have a number of butterflies – mainly Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and Peacock (Aglais io) – who appear to hibernate in our house. When the weather is mild they wake up. I am never sure whether to let them out or not. Would staying in the house mean further hibernation or slow starvation as they flap helplessly against the windowpane? Letting them out into the changing weather can only mean certain death as their life force is drained by the cold and lack of nutrients from their natural food sources.

From childhood I was taught that a butterfly’s life lasts but one day, as it emerges from its chrysalis with shimmering wings, drinking briefly from its chosen flowery nectar, choosing a mate and exhausting itself in procreative fervour. This seems not so or at least not entirely accurate. I have read that the Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) reaches British shores after a migratory flight from northern Africa and Spain, while obviously the Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell often spend a winter, at least, in dry dark sheltered roof spaces and cupboards before embarking on life once more.

As this butterfly flew out into the dim blustery day I wonder on how much more misinformation I have been fed during my formative years, and if this brief liberation, caused by my own puzzled intervention, was truly for the best…

threshold, digital images from drawings and paintings © p ward 2014threshold, digital images from drawings and paintings © p ward 2014

© P Ward 2014

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One Comment on “Winter Butterfly 171214”

  1. Such a nice image to see in my mind’s eye…butterflies out of season and flying in one’s house. I think letting them go outside will be fine…new overwintering places will be found. I remember both the Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell from my childhood. One of my favorite species at the Falls is also one found in the UK…here we call it the Mourning Cloak, but it is the Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopia) in your part of the world.


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