A Common Blue butterfly
May 26th … still in isolation from Covid-19.
We are familiar with male elephants or giant North-American buffalo fighting to hold prime mating territory. Birds are singing to proclaim both fitness and territory – all to lure the female of the species into their lair. Or is it the females just being hard to impress making the males go neurotic and do these things? But, common blue butterflies? Surely not.
We haven’t cut our main lawn since March. One cut only during 2020, so far. And, it looks okay. The multi-flowered dandelion-like compositae are a touch tall, yet everything else is still clustered around 5 – 10cm high. The grasses have never been fertilized in 32 years and are beautifully fine with delicate flower heads developing. Black medic, daisy, bulbous buttercup, fox-and-cubs and a few other plant species occupy the numerous gaps between the neglected grasses. Orchids, meadow saxifrage and even some yellow rattle have fought hard to join them.
This is a new habitat this year. We have been encouraged to have a no-cut-May … and we had decided to do that before anyone suggested it!
Common blues can lay their eggs on black medic, so our uncut lawn is potential habitat. The caterpillars have an enzyme to detoxify the poisons in their leaves – so making it one of a small number of possible larval food plants.
John Solomon tells me that the male butterflies usually hatch first. In this case one has selected our lawn and he is constantly patrolling his 25 square metres of territory. And, it appears exhausting rushing around this patch during sunlight hours. I only caught him resting when the sun was off his home territory. (Sorry, John, I hadn’t identified him until then!)
He is diddy creature and the energy demand of the patrolling must be considerable. However, the animal must have evolved for this to be an efficient process as perhaps only the fittest males can keep up the activity and so attract the ladies.
He does not have it easy. Not only on constant patrol … but chasing off other males.
I keeping an eye out, hoping love will soon be available. As yet, no brown female is in sight.
Dare I cut the lawn? No chance!
Plenty of black medic (Medicago lupulina) in grassland is an indicator of a low nitrogen content. In our case quite deliberate. Low nitrogen = low growth = less mowing and more plant diversity. All wins for me!