Yellow Admiral with homing instinct?????

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  • #15384

    Terry
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    As most of you who are members of this forum will know I have been breeding Yellow Admirals in my Butterfly House in the UK for 15 years. Today something really strange occurred which has left me puzzled and although this is not the first time it has happened, this time it was more bizarre! I visited the Butterfly House this afternoon at about 13.30 and unbeknown to me a Yellow Admiral had managed to make its way under the screen netting by the entrance and was obscured by the aluminium kick plate at the base of the door. When I started to slide the door open the blast of cool air triggered the said Butterfly to action and before I could cup my hands over it, it shot past me and went on its merry way to freedom. After the obligatory swearing had subsided I decided to check around the garden to see if I could spot it and recapture. The search was non productive so I gave up and entered the Butterfly House to do the daily chores such as watering plants checking for larvae and eggs and counting how many specimens had emerged from the pupae that morning. After about an hour I emerged from therein and turned the hose pipe on and proceeded to mix some fresh plant food in the large bucket I leave standing just outside the door to the Butterfly House. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a brown coloured Butterfly sweeping around just above my head. I assumed this to be a Comma because the Autumn brood are emerging at the moment and I have seen a few recently. On closer observation I realised it was my Yellow Admiral and then to my amazement it proceeded to flutter down toward me and land on the sleeve of my green Sweatshirt. I very carefully moved my other hand toward it to try and catch it but alas it flew off at the last second and flew around the front of the Butterfly House. Thinking this was the last I would see of it I started to continue with the job in hand only for it to fly back yet again and this time to land on my left upper leg on my tracksuit bottoms. Once again I moved very carefully to try and cup my hands over it and place it back in the Butterfly House. The same thing happened as before and it just escaped my clutches, however it then kept fluttering around the front of the Butterfly House as if trying to get back inside. By this time my patience had cracked so I decided to quickly dash indoors and grab the insect net. I was confident it would still be there when I returned but to my disappointment it was gone and never returned. It is very rare that any escape or stay free for long, as I am very cautious about Biosecurity issues with foreign species. The question I now ask is why did this butterfly return so easily and show no fear of alighting upon my person and was this because it could sense pheromones on my Sweatshirt where I had previously been inside the Butterfly House with other Yellow Admirals sitting on me as I did my daily chores or maybe it could memorise it’s previous location or maybe through genetic inherited memory my Yellow Admirals recognise me as being of no danger to them? There are many questions about this behaviour that are impossible to answer without detailed analysis of which I am unqualified to attempt, but it is strange that although there were Peacock, Red Admirals and Large whites in the area outside at the time getting anywhere near these was impossible as they were as would be expected very wary and nervous. In the past I have had this happen with Yellow Admiral escapees and a Small Tortoiseshell that I had released after captive breeding. Most Yellow Admirals in the past had been caught easily and returned to the Butterfly House, the Small Tortoiseshell was returned only because it appeared it really did want to get back in (I suppose its an easier more pampered life style within than outside). Comments and feedback anyone?

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  • #30662

    Terry
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    I have had very few escapees but one was outside for 4 days before returning and on that occasion the net was handy and she went back where she belonged. She was laying eggs on the nettles regenerating along the front of the Butterfly House when I caught her. The most interesting aspect is how they will fly around the outside of the Butterfly House as if trying to get back in. Now I could understand this if they were homing pigeons but with insects???? And not to forget in the UK Urtica dioica is very common and is available in good quantities in the fields nearby and all along the garden fence line

    #30656

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    My observations have been similar to Jane’s in that the Yellow Admirals I breed are released. Occasionally when I release an Admiral outside the butterfly house it will fly around the back yard and return and land on my shirt, as the ones inside the butterfly house will do.

    Some will remain in the back yard either sunning themselves or feeding at flowers for half the day before finally flying off. I have thought of marking the wings of the released butterflies to see if any return at some stage,but as yet have not done so.

    #30652

    Jane
    Participant

    Hi Terry,

    I have noticed that when I release Yellow Admirals that have been hand raised, that they demonstrate a familiarity and are not afraid of me. I don’t try to pick them up because I have raised them for release, unlike your scenario.

    They seem to hang around my garden and surrounds too, possibly only because there are a number of nettles, probably more than in the surrounding neighborhood.

    Your scenario is fascinating. They know where their mates are and food on tap?!? Familiar with your presence. It will be interesting to hear if others have similar experiences.

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