They have been everywhere this year. What a summer for the painted lady butterflies! They say that they come in these numbers every ten years, but I don’t remember so many in our garden.

Early this morning as I sit out having my morning coffee – there they are sunning themselves on the white rockery stones. They spread their wings and bathe in the sunlight before making off for the nearest purple flowers with nectar stores. There are already eight this morning and there seem to be more each day.

I first saw them in Oak Meadow on purple knapweed flowers, fluttering above the vegetation like little pale handkerchiefs. Once they settled, I could see the salmon colour on their wings, made up with black and white lace edges. The centre their body is furry and grey. They moved to the garden buddleia next and now that has faded there are clouds of them on our verbena.

They have come from Africa, but they don’t do it all in one journey. They stop off and breed and the young carry on their journey, like a relay. Now, here in the last few days I can see that some appear to be newly hatched. They look so clean and fresh. I think that the ones that arrived early must have bred here.

But here is their predicament – they cannot survive in our cold winters and do not hibernate here. Already, the old ones are looking pale and tattered and torn like ghostly copies of their former self. What can they do to survive? All I can think of is that the young ones must fly back south to a warmer country, and they must go soon to survive. They cannot stay here even though they love our flowers.

Before they go, I want to say that their second predicament is their name. ‘Painted lady’ is not a good name for the males of the species. Could they be called ‘painted men’? Or why not call them all the ‘thistle butterfly’? They love thistles, but I would rather have the romance of the painted ladies, wouldn’t you?

You are invited to tea with Vicky at Willow Gallery on Monday 9th September at 2.30pm for the launch of her new book Me and my Mam.