Look what fluttered by my garden


Well the heatwave was nice while it lasted, bringing out a great profusion of late summer butterflies.

The Michaelmas daisies in my front garden were absolutely covered in these colourful flutterers at the weekend, before the rain came back.

Most were Red Admirals, with a few Small Tortoiseshells and a solitary Peacock. It is interesting to note that over the years since I was a boy, the Small Tortoiseshell has declined in numbers, to be overtaken by the other two and that the Comma is now making inroads into the Borders in good numbers.

A reader emailed me at the weekend to say that she saw a Speckled Wood last Friday, enjoying the sunshine near Gattonside, which is another butterfly we seem to be seeing more of these days.

The recent southerly winds which brought us the heat, also brought in some unusual migrants from the world of moths. A trapper caught a rare Vestal at Melrose, which is an attractive yellow moth with a single pinkish stripe across each wing. The species breeds in southern Europe and North Africa, and the caterpillars live on knotgrass, dock and other low plants.

A much more spectacular moth was discovered in a Hawick garden in the middle of the month.

A reader emailed me to say that she had just been to a neighbour’s house to see a huge moth, which had been hanging around, not doing much, for several days.

They had managed to identify it on the internet as the Death’s Head Hawkmoth, the largest moth found in this country, with an incredible wingspan of up to 13cm.

This striking species, pictured top of page, is not native. Immigrants arrive from southern Europe, usually several in each year, during late summer and autumn.

It has the unusual habit of entering beehives in search of honey, and if handled, emits a loud squeak.

The large caterpillar feeds on potato (Solanum tuberosum), and is sometimes found in potato fields during good immigration years.

Yes, the swallows and other migrants may have gone, but as you can see it is not all one-way traffic and there are lots of interesting creatures heading the opposite way. Keep your eyes peeled, you never know what may turn up in your back garden.