From slugs to a more beautiful discovery. I have just collected the Eldest from somewhere (I lose track) and as I’m parking the car in the fading light, I notice something hanging in the tree. I stop the car and when the Eldest realises what I’m looking at, she too is intrigued. Is it some kind of a bird? All I can see is a large eye and as we get closer I gasp in astonishment. It’s a butterfly! A flipping huge butterfly!
Its eyespot is enormous and with its wings closed it’s about 4″ high. Up close I can see that its wings have been pretty battered and there’s a big chunk missing out of its upper wing. We break off the small branch it’s attached to and I take it inside.
GD and the Littlest are utterly stunned by it. It really is impressive. But it is looking in bad shape so we put it into the quiet of the conservatory with some sugar water. The Tribe watch with fascination as the butterfly uncurls its long proboscis. The proboscis is coiled under its head when not in use and is then just like a straw used to suck up nectar from plants.
Our rescued butterfly begins to drink and the following day it begins to fly about a little. I’m surprised given its wing damage. As its wings open, we are rewarded with a striking iridescent deep blue and turquoise. Wow.
When I walk into the room and quietly find the butterfly, it is sitting with wings outstretched soaking up the warmth of the sun. As it senses me being there, it closes its wings and shows its eyespot in order to protect itself from possible predators. The few times we find it flying, its size gives you the impression that it’s a bird; it is somewhat disconcerting and a little bit freaky, particularly when you forget that there’s a giant butterfly in the room.
I discover that it is a male Giant Owl Butterfly and they are found from Mexico through Central America, to the Amazon in South America. And now, in Abbotts Ann! They are nocturnal, living in rainforests and feed on rotting fruit, particularly bananas. Their name reflects the extraordinary eyespot that resembles an owl’s eye. The tattered wings could show the age of the butterfly – they become more damaged with age. The reason the butterfly didn’t move when we found it, is that they are unable to fly in cold weather. Because of their size, they are unable to fly far, so I have no idea how this one came to be in our garden. The only reference that I can find of the species being found in the UK was in Yorkshire in a shipment of bananas back in 1926 … Unfortunately, our Giant Owl Butterfly only survives a few days, but we feel incredibly privileged to have had such an exotic and rare visitor.
And yes, I have now had confirmation from Butterfly Conservation that it is indeed a Giant Owl Butterfly and no, they have no idea how it ended up in our garden.