Butterfly Urticaria — one of the brightest and most colorful representatives of diurnal butterflies. It got its name from its food habits. These insects not only feed on nettles, but often sit on the leaves of this plant without fear of being stung. Sometimes they are called “chocolates”. These creatures have unusually beautiful and delicate wings.
The origin of the species and description
Urticaria (Aglais urticae, Nymphalis urticae) belongs to the Holarctic genus of diurnal butterflies Aglais, originating from the Nymphalidae family. The specific epithet urticae comes from the word nettle, and Aglais is the ancient Greek goddess of grace Aglaya. Depending on the habitat, several subspecies of urticaria are distinguished:
- Aglais urticae var. chinensis;
- Aglais urticae var. connexa;
- Aglais urticae var. baicalensis;
- Aglais urticae var. urticae;
- Aglais urticae var. polaris;
- Aglais urticae var. kansuensis;
- Aglais urticae var. eximia;
- Aglais urticae var. stoetzneri;
- Aglais urticae var. turcica.
The closest relative of the insect is the spotted urticaria. Outwardly, they are absolutely identical. The only difference between them — large discal spot. It is located on the front wings and is connected to the veins. This species is not so numerous and is less common.
Interesting fact:The Scots called this subspecies “devils”, in Japan, on the contrary, urticaria are considered a symbol of an innocent young soul and immortality. The ancient Romans believed that these were not insects, but bouquets of flowers plucked by a gust of wind, personifying love, success, beauty, prosperity.
The behavior of a butterfly can predict the weather. If the flight is intermittent, restless, then it will soon begin to rain. Chocolate girls feel the change in humidity levels in the near future and try to quickly find a cozy place to hide and wait out the bad weather.
Appearance and features
Butterfly chocolate is a medium-sized insect. Butterfly wings are dark orange, brick red. Their length is 20-25 mm, span — 40-60 mm. The forewings have three black spots alternating with yellow ones. There are large dark spots on the front wings, the top is light. On the rear — small spots. Females practically do not differ from males.
Interesting fact: Chocolate wings are very delicate and fragile. If a moth suddenly flies into the room, people try to help the insect and let it out into the street. In most cases, such actions damage the butterfly’s wings, and it cannot fly normally.
On each of the wings there is a sharp ledge, the edges are wavy. At the base of the hind wings are brown scales on a brown background, followed by a bright orange stripe. On the outer edge of the wings on a black background there is a pattern of light blue crescent-shaped spots.
The inner side is brown with light patches. Each individual has a unique pattern, similar to human fingerprints. In winter, falling into hibernation, butterflies fold their wings and become like a dry gray leaf. Abdomen and thorax dark brown with brown hairs. The moth’s antennae are club-shaped.
Chocolate girls have three pairs of legs located on their chests. The family has a characteristic distinguishing feature – the front legs are so short that they do not participate in the process of walking. They don’t have claws. They serve for a soft landing. Chocolate girls move on middle and hind legs.
The caterpillar of the urticaria butterfly is black with a yellow stripe on top. Throughout the body are small green spikes with bristles. In the pupal stage, the moth wraps itself in a cocoon, on top of which there are horns, which some associate with the devil.
So we figured out what the urticaria butterfly looks like. Now let’s find out where the nettle butterfly lives.
Where does the nettle butterfly live?
These insects, along with the cabbage white and peacock eye, are one of the most common species living in Europe. The range extends to the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Chocolate girls can be found in China, Japan, Asia Minor and Central Asia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Siberia, Korea, in the countries of the former CIS.
You can see the urticaria, like its counterparts, in the park, square, meadows and fields, gardens, forest edges and other flowering areas. Moths prefer quiet and peaceful places to noisy cities. They don’t like bad weather. If you feel the approach of a strong wind or rain, chocolate butterflies look for where to hide – in tree hollows, basements, attics of private houses, verandas.
You can also meet chocolate girls high in the mountains. In the Alps, this species was found at an altitude of 3 thousand meters, and in the Himalayas – 5 thousand meters above sea level. At the stage of pupae, cocoons can be seen everywhere: on tree branches, leaves and stems of flowers, on fences and gates, benches.
Butterflies do not fly away for the winter, but hide from cold weather and frost under the bark of trees, in the basements of houses, caves, and sometimes on balconies. Urban individuals choose places closer to human homes, so that in case of bad weather it is easier to find shelter.
What does the nettle butterfly eat?
Thanks to their long black proboscis, moths get food in the form of nectar from plant inflorescences. At the stage of caterpillars, chocolate girls are very fond of eating nettle leaves, which served as the main criterion for choosing a name for the butterfly. Also, insects are not averse to eating:
Imagoes (adults) are not as picky in food as caterpillars. The choice of the latter is reduced to the use of:
- Dioecious and stinging nettles;
Only born caterpillars weave together a common web and eat young leaves. When the greenery ends on one plant, the young growth moves to the next one. As soon as a butterfly is born from a chrysalis, it immediately goes in search of flowers.
Interesting fact: Moths do not mind drinking fermented birch sap.
At the end of summer, Lepidoptera begin to feed especially actively. In order to maintain the vital activity of a small insect in the cold season, the body of urticaria needs to stock up on lipids. The juice of flowers helps them a lot.
While the butterflies are looking for nectar, they fly from one plant to another, pollinating them. On their wings is a delicate pollen, which they carry to the flowers. Thanks to this, they take second place in the ranking of pollinating insects. Only bees are ahead of them.
Sometimes during the February thaw, moths wake up from hibernation ahead of time and fly into houses or apartments. Until spring, the insect can be kept at home, feeding with a solution of sugar or honey. To do this, moisten a cotton swab with syrup and put on a saucer. 10-15 minutes of feeding is enough for hives a day.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Butterfly urticaria is one of the first spring butterflies. Summer begins with the appearance of the first rays of the sun. During the day they are busy pollinating flowers and looking for food, at night they hide in shelters. Up to two generations are replaced per year, depending on the climate. You can see the insect until September.
Chocolate makers are very dependent on weather conditions. During a drought, their numbers are significantly reduced. The absence of precipitation directly depends on the presence of water, nitrogen and nutrient minerals in the leaves of plants. The lack of substances weakens caterpillars and slows down their development.
Interesting fact: Chocolate girls can see colors, unlike other insects. This helps to find the right objects.
In favorable conditions, the species can exist for up to 9 months. Compared to other moths that can expect to live for only a few days, hives are real long-lived. With the onset of cold weather, they do not freeze, but hibernate like bears.
Lepidoptera do not fly away, but remain to winter in their native lands. At a temperature of 21 degrees below zero, the butterflies freeze through, but do not die. Their metabolism slows down and energy is used sparingly. With the first rays of the sun, they thaw and come to life. After wintering, they lay eggs and soon die.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Awakening from hibernation, refreshed and gathered strength, insects begin to reproduce. In the morning, males look for food, bask in the sun, after which they begin to search for a female in the afternoon. There are practically no skirmishes for territory.
The male flies up to the female from behind and emits a specific buzz. The next few hours will be spent in mating games. Most often, the mating process occurs in nettles. After fertilization, the female lays her future offspring on the inside of the plant.
Green or yellow oval-shaped eggs can be from 100 to 200 pieces. Laying time is up to one and a half hours. Under favorable conditions, embryos develop within a week. Baby caterpillars stay together as one brood rather than spreading all over the plant.
Small caterpillars are born only 1.2 mm long. At first they are green in color, with spots and black hairs. During their maturation, they molt 4 times. The body of adult caterpillars is black with yellow stripes. After shedding for the last time, individuals crawl along the bush.
They look for a place to pupate and attach vertically to a stem or leaf, forming a golden-red chrysalis about 2 cm in size. It stays in this state for about 2 weeks. After this period, the shell is torn and a butterfly is born. It needs to sit still for a few minutes so that its wings get stronger and it can fly away.
Natural Enemies of the Urticaria Butterfly
Like everyone else insects, this type of butterfly has a lot of natural enemies. Among them are amphibious animals in the form of frogs; reptiles – steppe vipers, lizards, snakes; birds – marsh harrier and many others; small rodents.
To protect themselves from enemies, chocolate girls have protective coloring on the inside of their wings. When they fold their wings, the camouflage color from the side resembles a dry leaf. But often he does not save butterflies, and birds, declassifying camouflage, eat them, sometimes up to half of wintering ones.
There is also a chance of being attacked by parasites. Hymenoptera insects, such as flies, can lay their eggs on plant leaves, which are then eaten by caterpillars. The larvae will grow in the body of the caterpillars and eat the organs from the inside. After a painful death, up to 100 riders can crawl out of the body of a future butterfly.
It can be difficult to catch a chocolate maker, so individuals at the egg, pupa or caterpillar stage are the most vulnerable. Birds constantly feed their chicks hundreds of caterpillars a day. About 20% of the eaten caterpillars are allocated to the share of birds. Birds grab feeding or resting moths, rub against a tree so that wings fall off, eating only the body.
Caterpillars can become prey for beetles, dragonflies, praying mantises, wasps. Spiders can catch butterflies in their webs or watch out for flowers. Not the last role is played by the person. Due to the destruction of landscapes, chocolate girls are losing their habitats. When harmful insects are destroyed, many butterflies die from poisoning.
Population and species status
Fortunately, the species is not listed in the Red Book, so it does not need to be protected. In the coming years, the disappearance of urticaria is definitely not threatened. Thanks to the ability to adapt to any habitat conditions, butterflies breed well and their habitat is very wide. You can’t meet them except at the North Pole.
Since the species does not cause any harm to agriculture, chocolate makers have never been tried to exterminate. No country sees negative images in butterflies. Individuals exist in sufficient numbers everywhere, they do not need protection, and according to scientists’ forecasts, the species will not become extinct in the next 20 years.
The record high air temperature in recent years, according to researchers, has led to a high increase in the number of moths. The weather conditions of late are ideal for the existence and reproduction of these beautiful creatures.
During 2010-2011, the number of chocolate makers increased by 60%. But during the period when the summer was quite cold, the population again decreased significantly. Center for Ecology scientist Mark Botham emphasized the need to locally maintain a favorable environment for Lepidoptera without interfering with their habitats.
Preservation of forests, so necessary for this species, greatly helps to increase the number of butterflies. Insects live in their usual environment and the slightest change in habitat can be detrimental to them. Preserving the environment helps the species feel better and reproduce more actively.
During thaws, you can often see butterflies in the snow. Caring people take them home to save them from the cold. The life of a moth at home will be affected by several factors, such as indoor humidity, nutrition, energy supply. Under favorable conditions, the insect can live for several weeks.
The Chocolate Butterfly is undeniably a cute and beautiful creature. From time immemorial, in different nationalities, they were treated with respect and prejudice. In all cultures, butterflies have been associated with a symbol of prosperity, success, love and prosperity. Moths performing a mating dance are compared with a happy couple in love and serve as a symbol of family happiness.