Monday 10 October 2011

The Next Generation

Despite the fact that I saw very few Glanville Fritillary butterflies Melitaea cinxia (la Mélitée du plantain in French) this year, on 2 October I found my first 'nest' for the season. Glanville caterpillars live communally when they are young, building a web which serves as a shelter from the cold and wet of winter at the base of their food plant, plantain. They will sallie out on all but the coldest days to eat and by the spring they will have gone from 10mm long to about 40mm and be ready for the transformation into adult butterflies.

You can just see a little caterpillar under the web at lower right.
Since then I've found another web. As I've discovered, they can withstand very cold weather, but the dry spring seems to have affected them greatly. I think the drought caused a loss of their secondary food plant, speedwell, just when they needed it in the spring this year. Hopefully next year will go better for them.


PS I saw the first orchid leaf rosette for the season, at le Petit Pressigny, on the side of the road, when I was there for L'Art et Lard.


Tim said...

Shows you have to know what you arelooking for.... I'd have walked past thinking it was a tunnel spider's web!!

Niall & Antoinette said...

Our orchid rosettes under the lime tree are showing. Would never have know that the web was a caterpillar 'commune'.

Susan said...

Tim: yes, but you would have recognised 40 Black Storks when they flew over your house ...

N&A: bit better than the ones in the pine trees, eh ? !

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