29th July 2015

Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars are getting harder to find but are so distinctive when you do. They look like a dark, spiky mass and are very visible on their host plant, Stinging Nettles. One reason for the decline in these once very common Butterflies, whose adults feed join many nectar rich flowers, like these on Scabious, is being researched at present. One of the flies which parasitise the Caterpillars, Sturmia Bella, is increasing due to climate change. The eggs of these flies are laid beside Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars and, when they hatch, the larvae rather gruesomely enter the caterpillars and feed from the inside, avoiding vital organs so that the host survives as

Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars , hatched from a tent of web that initially protects the eggs

Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars , hatched from a tent of web that initially protects the eggs

The caterpillars are predominantly black with yellow markings along the side

The caterpillars are predominantly black with yellow markings along the side

Adult Butterflies feed on a range of nectar-rich flowers, like this Scabious

Adult Butterflies feed on a range of nectar-rich flowers, like this Scabious

IMG_1411

The now empty ‘tent’ spun to protect Small Tortoiseshell eggs, on Stinging Nettles

long as possible. Eventually the caterpillar dies and the fly lives to parasitise another day. Conditions: Sunny intervals with showers later. Temperature: Max 17- Min 11c.

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