All a-flutter over a weekend guest

The orange tip butterfly
The orange tip butterfly

Great to hear from regular contributor Callum again.

“I saw the first orange tip to visit my garden this year last Friday,” he reports. “This particular butterfly, after fluttering around the garden, finally came to rest on a dried-up leaf of a shrub and enjoyed the sun.

“I took a few photos and carried on with my gardening.

“On looking back later when I went in for my tea, the butterfly was still there and on looking the following morning (after a night in which it rained and was extremely windy) it was still there holding on to the dried leaf.

“Well, it stayed there all through the Saturday and all through the Sunday, but by the time I got back from work on the Monday. It had gone!

“A question for you – does the temperature have to be above a certain level for butterflies to fly?

“How long can they go without food/nectar especially since it was pretty cool and windy over the weekend?”

I decided to consult a couple of local butterfly enthusiasts.

Iain Cowe says, “They will vibrate the wing mechanisms very quickly, exactly the same way a moth does, or indeed a bee, to reach a certain body temperature.

“The downside is that they will use up valuable rocket fuel in doing so. Butterflies can switch off quite a few unnecessary systems in order to save energy during a prolonged spell of poor weather. Don’t ask how long they can do this. I just don’t know.”

Nick Morgan added, “Interesting that you should mention this as I have had a similar e-mail.

“I imagine that an orange tip would be able to withstand a week or so without feeding, assuming that it was inactive during cold weather.”

So, I hope this shortened version of a very interesting correspondence answers most of Callum’s main points.

By George Hogg, Hogg Estate Services, Wildlife Management