Interlude – Garden Entomology

Remember the potter’s wheel? I do which is a bit odd, since when I looked it up, I found that it was shown on the BBC in the 1950s and I’m not old enough to remember that far back.

Large white 

This post is the blog equivalent of those short interlude films – a bit of filler before another proper post comes along. I think the beeb could bring their interludes back – couldn’t be any worse than half of what’s on telly already.


If they did, mind, it would be The Great British Pot Throw-Off or some such. Like the Generation Game, but po-faced. Instead of five minutes of images with some light classical music, we’d get an hour of tedium, probably with an over-the-top voice-over in an attempt to rack-up the non-existent tension.


It could be presented and judged by a ‘national treasure’ -  Grayson Perry seems ideally qualified.

Enough of that – I’ve never watched those competition programmes – baking, dancing, skating, tumbling, diving etc – so my rant is based entirely on supposition about just how dreadful they might be, if they’re at all like I imagine them to be. 

Having holidayed at home this summer, we had the chance to spend a fair bit of time in the garden. Often I was cooking on the barbecue when I was out there, but one particularly warm, sunny day, I had a happy half hour photographing butterflies and other bugs which were on and around a buddleia bush.

Red Admiral III 

Apparently, the name of the red admiral may refer to the butterflies resemblance to an ensign or naval flag, raised when an admiral is aboard a ship.

The Red Admiral’s scientific name Vanessa is one of science’s in-jokes. The original Vanessa was the nickname of a teenage girl tutored by Jonathon Swift and was based on her real name of Hester Vanhombrugh, that is, ‘Van-ester’. It seems that she and Swift had an affair and that he celebrated her ‘bright looks’ in his poem ‘Cadmus and Vanessa’.

Large white 

I assume that this is a large white. Although I often see white butterflies skittering about, they seem reluctant to pose for photos and they are one of my numerous blind-spots when it comes to identifying the various species.

Larg white + bumblebee in flight 

Apparently, in Lincolnshire, during the Napoleonic wars, they were known as Frenchmen, presumably lumped in with the enemy due to the damage their caterpillars do to cabbages and other brassicas.

Peacock I 

The peacock used to be know as the peacock’s tail.

The Peacock’s scientific name, Inachis io, alludes to an ancient myth which explains the origin of the peacock’s tail. Io was a seduced nymph, the daughter of King Inachus. In order to disguise Io from his wife’s prying eyes, Jupiter turned her into a heifer. Io, still helplessly lovely and desirable even in the form of a cow, was given to the care of Argus, a heavenly herdsman whose hundred eyes made escape impossible. At length, her father discovered Io grazing in a field. The winged god Mercury helped her to escape by telling Argus a long and immensely boring story that resulted in every one of his eyes closing in sleep. Then, rather unsportingly, Mercury got out his sword and cut his head off. This displeased Jupiter’s wife, but she managed to collect all of Argus’s eyes and attached them to her favourite bird, the peacock, ‘covering its tail with jewelled stars’.

Peacock II


The lovely comma, with it’s raggedy edged wings, is named for that small white punctuation mark on the underside of its wings. In France it’s called Robert le Diable because of the shape of its wings. It’s something of a success story, which makes a nice change: it’s spreading northwards at a rate of ten kilometres a year.

That’s it – interlude over for now. Are any of your one hundred eyes still open, Argus?

The quotations above, and much of the other information, come from Bugs Britannica by Richard Marren and Richard Mabey. I haven’t delved into that as often as I have into its companion volumes Flora Britannica and Birds Britannica, but I can see that I need to rectify that error.

I read that the Northen Lights may possibly be visible unusually far south tomorrow night. Keep your eyes peeled.

Interlude – Garden Entomology

7 thoughts on “Interlude – Garden Entomology

  1. And a fine Potters Wheel post it was. Too much spent dashing about sometimes and not enough time just chilling in the garden. Kids expect us to “do something” every weekend these days.

    Your program name was wrong by the way. It would be “The Great British Celebrity Pot Throw-Off” 🙂

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      “The Great British Celebrity Pot Throw-Off on Ice”

      Doing something and chilling needn’t be entirely mutually exclusive of course – but I take your point. It is nice just to relax and enjoy the garden once in a while.

  2. You always seem to capture superb shots of these uncooperative bugs, butterflies never settled long enough for us to get a good picture, even on our buddleia.
    I just barely remember the Potter’s Wheel interlude.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Hi Geoff,
      You should have seen the one that got away! I do have an awful lot of photos of abandoned leaves and flowers where insects and such like have just been feeding. And on many occasions I never even get that far. Partly I suppose it’s luck, but also I make my own luck by being persistent and, on occasion, doggedly pursuing insects hoping that they will settle for a while. My camera wasn’t particularly expensive, and it has it’s limitations, but it has a pretty reasonable zoom facility and that certainly helps.

  3. I grew up i the UK, remember the potter’s wheel, and the kitten playing with the basket of yarn, and the ploughmen ploughing endlessly, more and more of them. Wonderful stuff. Much better than the actual programs.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Hi Liz,
      I think maybe I’ve seen the kitten. I can easily imagine that the interludes were better then the programmes which they supplemented. There are so many channels here now, I’m surprised that there isn’t one showing those old films.

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