Gosh, that was quick. One minute we were tootling along, preparing for Christmas, current guests enjoying the Christmas tree, all comfy in front of the Butterfly log burner, when wallop! The wicked Covid witch did a malicious little loop the loop over Milton Keynes and suddenly we were magically transported to tier four. So, the Butterfly Loft is closed for Christmas and we will re-open when we are permitted to in 2021.
Christmas is effectively over at the Butterfly Loft and the tress will be packed away for next year. In the meantime, seeing as I’m not getting ready for Christmas guests, I thought you might like to have a chat about butterflies. They’re such lovely, fascinating things, bringing feelings of joy, often taking us back to childhood memories. Here are a few butterfly facts (useful if you dig out the Trivial Pursuits after Christmas lunch).
Butterflies don’t shed tears (I don’t think they have any emotions actually), but they certainly don’t like the cold. In fact, they can’t fly if they’re cold. They need to maintain a surprisingly high body temperature if they want to get airborne. For a butterfly to operate at an optimal level, its body temperature needs to be around 30°C (86°C). Keeping up a high internal temperature is a tough task for an insect with cold blood. Thermal underwear and woolly socks have yet to be invented for butterflies. They must warm up by sunbathing, staying still on vegetation with their wings spread in direct sunlight. Their wings contain a network of small capillaries and this activity heats the blood in butterflies’ veins, allowing for transport of warmed blood throughout their small bodies.
Butterfly wings aren’t coloured. They’re transparent. They have four wings (made up of two hindwings and two forewings). These wings are made up of two layers of protein sandwiching a layer of capillaries. The protein is covered with modified hairs called ‘scales’ that contain pigments that reflect light in different colours. Over time, some of these colourful scales will rub off, exposing the transparent membrane. The wings of butterflies move in a figure eight motion.
Butterflies don’t eat anything. They don’t have a mouth, poor little things. They can only drink, using a long protruding tube called a proboscis. In fact, this is one of the first parts of a butterfly’s body to develop during metamorphosis. You may see butterflies just after metamorphosis testing out their proboscis by repeatedly uncoiling it and coiling it back up again. Butterflies mostly drink nectar as you would imagine, but they also drink from muddy puddles and rotten fruit. Nectar provides them with the glucose they need for energy, but other liquids are necessary at times to provide them with minerals and salts.
And lastly – I love this one! – the collective noun for a group of butterflies is known as a “flutter” or a “rabble”.
We have all had such a difficult year and even though there’s now a vaccine programme in place it’ll take a while to get back to some sort of normal. I came across this butterfly related quote from Sonya Poland which sums things up nicely. “Look through eyes of hope and see a butterfly inside the caterpillar. Hope knows that beauty is waiting to be born in the unlikeliest places.”
The Butterfly Loft wishes you and yours a happy, hopeful and healthy Christmas and the wish that we can travel safely and freely into 2021 and beyond.
Stony Stratford is a wonderful place to escape to for staycation or work! If you’re thinking of staying in Milton Keynes and you want somewhere characterful, historically fascinating and tranquil, do get in touch. Once we are allowed to open again, we look forward to seeing you.