Saturday, May 5, 2012

What happens when a raindrop, travelling at terminal velocity, hits a butterfly .....?

























I've never seen an insect actually hit by a raindrop but I did once read an eyewitness account (of dubious reliability) of such a collision with a bumblebee in flight, which supposedly killed the bee. It came to mind yesterday as a dark rain cloud slid over the sun while I was photographing this newly-minted female orange tip butterfly  visiting bluebells.


Almost immediately the butterfly folded its wings as completely as possible, assumed a vertical position on a bluebell infloresence and even aligned its antennae tightly in line with its body axis - all of which presented the smallest possible target for a falling raindrop. I wonder if this instinctive behaviour is triggered by the sudden drop in light level and temperature that's characteristic of an approaching shower on a spring day? Many insects crawl away under leaves during rain showers but orange tips always seem to roost in the open. I've often found dew-covered specimens early in the morning.




































As soon as the sudden and very heavy shower had passed I went out to take a look and found the butterfly unharmed..... hard to believe that it hadn't been knocked off its perch by the downpour!

16 comments:

  1. The power of these fragile looking insects to withstand rough weather is amazing.
    A couple of weeks back I watched a Holly Blue clinging to a leaf in wind gusting hard enough to blow chairs across the garden.

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  2. Beautiful photos! It's amazing how tough butterflies are, isn't it? I've seen them flying with wings in tatters/missing big parts, and don't know how they do it.

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  3. Fascinating observation and as usual first class photography. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Oh, what a interesting piece of information. I hadn't realised that they could fold up so tightly, it looks like an exclamation mark. How fascinating.

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  5. Facinating! And a beautiful butterfly, too.

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  6. What a pretty butterfly. It's wing pattern would make a lovely sun dress.
    nellie

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  7. Hi John, I've had a small colony of orange tips breeding in the garden for twenty years now and in all that time have only once found one of their well camouflaged pupae in winter, so it's always reassuring when they emerge in spring.

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  8. Hi Rob, I'm always impressed to by the way that some of the larger species, like peacocks, travel so far and so fast even in blustery conditions.

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  9. Hi Erica, I know what you mean - some are in tatters by the end of the summer, aren't they...?

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  10. Hi snippa, thanks - and thanks for visiting...

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  11. Hi toffeeapple, they are surprisingly hard to spot when they are in that state, especially in dappled sunlight..

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  12. I need to find a male now Valerianna - the orange tips to their wings are exquisite

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  13. Hi Nellie, ...it wouldn't, wouldn't it...? best wishes, Phil

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  14. WOW!
    What an interesting blog!
    I have made similar observations with all sorts of butterflies!
    The Orange tip is one of my favorite!
    Too bad I can't register as a "member", but I will have a closer look at your other posts!
    Cheers Phil!

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  15. Greetings Noushka, have just visited your blogs and have become a follower - beautiful pictures! All the best, Phil...

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