Category Archives: Butterflies

Butterfly, Flutter By

As well as the natural attractions of the landscape of the Wye Valley, at Symonds Yat  there is a butterfly zoo.  A tiny piece of steamy, tropical forest, recreated indoors where conditions are simulated to mimic the natural habitat of tropical butterflies.

Palms and vines compete for space with lilies and milkweed, as these beautiful creatures flit from plant to eye catching plant, looking for food.


In the wild a lot of tropical butterflies eat rotting fruit (just the job!) and here in the zoo the staff had thoughtfully put out platefuls of overripe bananas – yum!

You can see why the striking creature below is  called the Owl Butterfly.

The markings on its hind wings provide it with excellent camouflage.

In fact, it is said to be more moth-like in behaviour as it is crepuscular i.e. active at dawn and dusk, whereas butterflies would normally be seen in the daytime – here it was certainly the most static and easiest to photograph!

The Blue Morpho, native to South and Central America, proved the most elusive, hardly settling at all. It was the biggest butterfly in the collection and in the wild can have a wing span of between 13 to 20 centimetres. It was a stunning sight, and the iridescence of its shimmering blue wings is said to confuse its predators as it has the effect of making it appear and reappear as the light catches them.


morpho1

The Malachite, which ranges from the southern United States down to Peru, Argentina and Bolivia, is much smaller, with a wing span of 8 to 10 centimetres.


The next butterfly is I THINK! a Wood Nymph. I say ‘think’ because, although we were given some pictures to help us identify them, a butterfly can look very different with its wings folded as opposed to outspread! And another confusing thing is that some appear to be known by several names – this being a case in point – is it a Wood Nymph or a Paper Kite? Or something else entirely!

What is interesting is that the Wood Nymph, from South East Asia,  feeds on milkweed, those tiny yellow and red flowers, and they contain toxins. The butterfly fills up on the toxins to put would be predators off eating it for supper – clever, eh?!
For such fragile creatures, some of the butterflies seemed to be carrying damaged wings  – this swallow tail, for example,
damage
or, even more noticeable, this Owl butterfly. 
I don’t know to what extent this would affect them, perhaps they’re tougher than they look!
It was a joy to be so close to these lovely creatures and to see the colour and variety, not only of the butterflies themselves, but also the sweet shop colours of the exuberant, outsize tropical vegetation that they call home.


 


 

Butterflies at Symonds Yat

What to do on a chilly, blustery Wednesday in April whilst waiting for  the British summer to arrive?
I know! A trip to the butterfly centre at Symonds Yat! Inside the butterfly house the atmosphere and temperature are carefully controlled and these beautiful creatures flit from plant to plant and chase each other around their tropical paradise.
The plants are not quite Kew Gardens dimensions but they set the scene
fronds
purple   leaves
spike1
     tangle1    tiger1
red2 trumpet4
trunk3
yellow    whiteStar
and whilst studying the plants you start to notice the brilliantly camouflaged butterflies settled motionless on them – difficult to tell the scale from these photos but these butterflies ranged in width, with wings outspread, from 2-3 inches to 5-6 inches.
blue&black eye1
white&black
Here are a few of the images from my trip.
From velvety black to iridescent blue – I don’t know the names of these lovely butterflies but I’m sure the lepidopterists amongst you will.
black1 blue&black
blueCloseUp2      eye
orange&black2     silhouette
whiteSpotted   whiteSpotted5
whiteSpotted3    whiteSpotted7