Easter Butterflies

Easter is a time of hope for all. But this year COVID-19 has brought heartbreak to some and isolation and worry to many people, here and across the world. The virus can infect anyone, whether you are a prime minister or a health worker, a child or an elderly person.

The rare gift of sustained good weather has brought butterflies out into the so welcome sunshine. The startlingly clear spring light shines on masses of golden Common Dandelions allowed to bloom this year, a flower greatly needed by our spring bees and butterflies (what a pity Wordsworth eulogised daffodils instead of dandelions in his best-known poem “I wandered Lonely as a Cloud”).

Seeing nature flying free, not locked down and restricted, must be a powerful symbol of hope. Some of our butterflies, such as the Peacock and the Brimstone prepared for winter, a time of hunger and cold. They survived the dark, wet winter as adult butterflies, symbols of resilience.  Now they are fulfilling their destiny, seeking and finding each other in the good times,  and laying the foundations for the next generation to emerge in high summer.

Other butterflies that are in flight now, such as the Speckled Wood, over-wintered inside the pupa. Cocooned in the immobile homes, they too fly free. Nature recognises the right time to move to the next stage in life, reading the signs-increasing daylight is carefully registered so emergence takes place when nectar for the adult and the food needed for their offspring is available. Success depends on timing. They cannot just emerge from the cocoon when there are a few warm days; if they just responded to temperature cues, the Speckled Wood could emerge out of synchronisation with the development of its caterpillar foodplants. Butterflies indicate the benefits of getting the timing right.

Symbols of resilience, hope, timing, freedom, hope and beauty-is it any wonder we love butterflies?

Happy Easter

A male Brimstone, faded after his long winter and ongoing search for a mate, but still healthy, active and beautiful. As is the case for most butterflies, Common Dandelion is a favourite nectar source. J.Harding
A female Peacock basking just after inspecting nettles to determine their suitability for her eggs. Shortly after this was taken, she flew into a ditch to drink water then flew off to continue her search for a breeding site.J.Harding
A male Peacock (sexes look identical) in his alert pose, ready to launch himself after a rival or mate. J.Harding
A male Speckled Wood, freshly emerged, keeps his vigil on a  trackway. Like the male Peacock, the male Speckled Wood is fiercely territorial. J.Harding
Holly Blues mating in a garden in Rathfarnham, County Dublin. Keep a watch in your garden, especially now while we are confined. Photo Michael Gray