14 Jul 2014

14 July 14 - Badly Painted Lady

The previous afternoon, I had been having a lazy day after a few hectic days of Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies & photography, when I get a call from my mate Peter Moore. Peter had been out walking locally & found an odd Painted Lady. Having got some photos he wanted to talk the Painted Lady over with me. It sounded intriguing, but I decided that as it would be cooling down soon as it was late afternoon, I would leave a trip to the following morning. That evening after completing family duties, Peter forwarded some photos & I realised I should have been more enthusiastic, as it looked stunning. The following morning, I headed out not expecting to see it. However, within a few minutes of arriving, I was pleased to see it was still around & happily feeding on some brambles. First some photos & then some explanation about it.
Painted Lady: Aberration Rogeri
Painted Lady: Aberration Rogeri
Painted Lady: Aberration Rogeri
Painted Lady: Aberration Rogeri
Painted Lady: Aberration Rogeri
For comparison, this is a bog-standard Painted Lady.
Painted Lady: This is what every other Painted Lady that I ave seen has ever looked like 
Painted Lady: About my best underwing shot
From what Peter could find out. This is a rare aberration of Painted Lady in the wild. It occurs when the pupae experienced a period of cold weather. Butterfly enthusiasts have artificially bred them by deliberating cooling the pupae. However, this doesn't seem to be commonly seen in the wild. Sadly, as a consequence if its rarity, Peter was advised to be careful about revealing the location as it would be likely to be collected & killed by a Butterfly collector very quickly. The estimated price of a wild specimen to a collector, would more than cover my mortgage for a couple of months. It was seen the next day by one of my mates, but I've spent some time looked since & didn't see it. Either it had decided to move on after feeding up for a few days, had been eaten by a Bird, not that there were a lot of Birds nearby (but a Whitethroat had appeared on my second visit) or perhaps had ended up in a collectors net.

3 comments :

  1. If anybody thinks we were being overly paranoid about it being collected, then have a read of the comments added after Peter posted one of his photos on Birdguides (http://www.birdguides.com/iris/pictures.asp?comments=y&f=439647). This provoked a reaction that it had scientific value & consideration of killed & preserving it should me made.
    The comment made by a fairly anonymous Chris, ignored the fact that had it been collected, it would have been by a private collector who would be unlikely to have passed it onto a proper institution like the Natural History Museum, but would have kept it for his own personal collection. He also objected so strongly to my comment his initial view was Victorian, that he tried to censor that, so my comment was removed. Apparently, standard Birdguides policy is to automatically remove comments, but they reinstated it, once they had had time to read it & agree there wasn't grounds for its removal.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Had this email from Mark Lightowler in Feb 16:-

    Yesterday while I was looking up butterfly aberrations, I came across your stunning photo of a female Painted Lady ( V. cardui Ab- rogeri ) that took my breath away.

    I have made a lifelong study of Lepidoptera and as a wildlife illustrator have seen many amazing aberrations over the last 30 years or so.

    The reason for contacting you is that I have the actual answer to how this variation is formed. Many aberrations do seem to be caused by sudden shock of temperature in the ' critical ' stage of pupal development. This occurs within the first 12hrs of pupation, after which time the colour and pattern is already formed within the cells. In the case of Ab rogeri, it is extreme heat that causes the aberration but very rarely does the pupa survive, which is why these beautiful curios are so rare.

    The species is of course African in origin and I believe this form and var elmyi are much more numerous there, as in certain warmer parts of Europe. South of France and Portugal being good places for such aberrations to occur.

    For 20 years I ran a Tropical butterfly house in Bolton, Lancs until its sad closure 2 years ago. One very hot summer we had an amazing number of aberration hatch out in the butterfly house. These were mostly Peacock Butterflies ( Inachis io Ab - belisaria ) without the beautiful eye spots. They were very unusual and although the adults did breed another generation, all the Autumn butterflies were normal, proving that it was the temperature that had produced the aberration. A very rare occurrence nevertheless and I never saw anything like these again over the years, proving that even in captivity the chances of such individuals are very rare.

    Anyway, i'm very impressed with your photo and have to say I have never seen a more extreme example as the one you saw. As I do use museums a lot for my work I have yet to see an actual specimen of this form although I am aware the British Museum holds a few examples. However, much better to see a living example and I can admire the beauty from your pictures. Wonderful!!

    All the best,
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  3. More from Mark Lightowler:-

    Yes, please share my comments. Your butterfly was a one in a lifetimes opportunity and you will probably never see another example. They are just so rare in the wild and as I already commented, very rarely survive the pupation stage. Most are killed off because of the exceptionally high temperatures needed to create the form. The pupa in this instance would have reached between 74F & 90F, so would have been positioned just in the right spot for the correct amount of time needed. This would have been no more than a couple of hrs at this temperature.

    It is a really interesting subject and something that I am really fascinated with. I once saw a Comma Butterfly with completely black wings high on a Privet Hedge. I couldn't get a photo as it was out of reach and wouldn't settle further down the hedge. This would have been caused by the same temperature.
    I have never seen anything like it since.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete