by Paul Cormacain 02/05/2003
IT was a great day for butterflies, and we saw more on that one day than during the previous six months. It was warm, the sun was shining, very little wind stirred and circumstances were just right for the beautiful creatures.
We had met Bobby earlier in the day, and he said there were butterflies about. We just happened to meet him less than an hour later, and he told us about the orange tip that came so close that he was thinking about catching it to show it to us.
For that to happen, I suspect that he would have to be able to 'fly like a butterfly'. -
Minutes after we parted, something came along that was to 'fly like a butterfly', and it was an orange tip butterfly.
It was the first we had seen in a month and was all the more beautiful for being the first orange tip of the year.
The orange tip is one of our more common butterflies and it normally starts to put in an appearance towards the middle of April. As happens in Nature, the male is a particularly attractive insect whose colouring surpasses that of the female.
Only the male has the distinctive orange tip. (n both male and female the ground colour is white and the base of the wings is black.
The distinguishing orange tip of the male's wings make it easy to espy and identify , and to spot the female try to visualise the male without the orange.
The orange tip is common all over Ireland, England and Wales. Scotland has a healthy population but in the north of the country the creature is absent.
Apart from a few areas in the extreme north, and the extreme south, of Europe, the orange tip butterfly is common.
We saw three more orange tips that day.
Then a few white butterflies turned up at intervals. Conscious of the orange tips, we were on the lookout for a lady orange, but none came our way.
Two individual large whites showed in the few hours, just going about their business. Both were ladies, distinguished by the black area of the forewings and the two black marks close by.
Like the orange tip, the large white is very common and is even more widespread throughout Europe.
One of the names it gets is the cabbage white, although it has to be said that other white butterflies also get called the cabbage white. This is to do with their liking for cabbage!
When farmers grow a field of cabbages, or gardeners get a crop of cabbages, the word goes out and large whites come from near and far. They like a little nibble at the vegetable, and indeed at other brassica. This can give rise to unpopularity, would you believe?
So some folk try to poison the poor creatures and sometimes nasty things are used. The gardener can usually use salted water, but the farmer has to use commercial poisons. They don't do the butterflies much good, I sometimes wonder what they do for humans.
Two small tortoiseshell butterflies appeared, twirling around each other like youngsters glad to be out from school.
But by their behaviour they were also thinking off future generations of small tortoiseshells. 1 saw one of these butterflies on March 17, but then did not sight another until these two.
Then another pair of butterflies appeared, the last ones seen that day. Experts reckon they flew over from Europe, for the holidays, you know.
They are common here each year, could probably overwinter like the small tortoiseshell, but seem to only want to fly over in the spring.
31 May - Family fun searching for safe places for hinds to lay their eggs, at Castle Espie, number 9187 4146
Friday 9 May - Bat detecting at Bog Meadows Nature Reserve, at 8prn. Contact 9062 864 7
Sunday 1 June - A sea trip around some cliffs at Islandmagee, at 11 lam. Bound to be spectacular, contact Andrew Upton, Wildlife Trust, 028 4483 0282.