MEDITATION – BUTTERFLIES
Butterflies enjoying the tranquility and warmth of summer sunshine are mesmerising, watching them fluttering and floating, dancing to an unheard symphony and gathering nectar from many-hued meadow flowers; their beautifully patterned multicoloured wings tantalisingly opening and shutting showing off their intricate markings. Relaxing in the warmth of the sun it’s restful, calming, soothing away worries – and the trials and tribulations of the world around us become distant and far removed from the life of the butterflies sipping from the flowers with the lightest of touches, transferring pollen to ensure seed setting for new flowers to blossom next year.
Butterflies have taste receptors in their feet which help them locate the right food plants with the key nutrients they need for survival. They drink nectar using their proboscis like a straw.
Many butterflies live for only a few weeks – although the entire life cycle from egg, through caterpillar and pupa to adult can last between 2 and 8 months.
The European Peacock butterfly lays its eggs on nettles or hops. They soon turn into shiny black caterpillars that spin a communal web in which they live and feed. The butterflies drink nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants, including buddleia, willow, dandelions, marjoram and clover. Before winter, butterflies convert some of their blood sugar into glycerol to act as a sort of anti-freeze in preparation for hibernation in a sheltered place – reappearing in March to lay their eggs.
Each spring, the red admiral migrates from North Africa and continental Europe and lays its eggs on the tips of nettle leaves. New butterflies eventually emerge in July and continue flying into October or November when they can typically be seen nectaring on garden buddleias, flowering Ivy or rotting fruit..
The speckled wood butterfly likes brambles in hedgerows and partially shaded woodland and feeds on honeydew in the treetops – and occasionally on marjoram and buddleia. They like dappled sunlight and can often be seen chasing each other making spirals in the sunshine.
The ringlet also likes field edges with brambles and privet, butterflies also feed on oregano, thistles, scabious and hogweed. But the female lays her eggs in grassy areas and the caterpillars feed on grass. The ringlet can often be seen with characteristic bobbing flight on cloudy days when other butterflies are inactive.
The caterpillars of the silver-studded blue butterfly have a symbiotic relationship with ants. The ants protect the caterpillars from predators and parasites, in return they get to feed on a sugary substance that the caterpillars produce. When the caterpillars are ready to pupate, they do so in a shallow chamber just below the ground – often in ant nests. The ants will attend the pupa just as they did the caterpillar, and can sometimes be seen swarming around the newly-emerged adult butterflies, offering them some protection whilst their wings dry out.
The small copper butterfly is usually found in ones and twos, on unimproved grassland, heathland, woodland clearings, waste ground and moorland, it feeds on common sorrel and sheep’s sorrel. Males are territorial often choosing a favourite stone to bask in the sun and wait for females, chasing away other insects.
Butterflies softly flittering and fluttering, hovering, dancing in the sunlight, gently tip-toeing over the flowers – wonderful images for meditation.