Brrrr, winter arrives… and has perhaps retreated?

Four nights of frost and cold. No rain. The ground was starting to dry. There was a bit of wind. I’d got two loads of washing dry. The heating has been turned on. But will it stay on? It’s gone from -1 to +11 (centigrade). That’s a big difference. It rained virtually all day today, even without the cold the house struggles to retain heat when it’s that wet. So…we’ll see.

I want to prune the Oak tree closest to the house. It’s pretty close – 5 metres from the kitchen window. It was a little sapling when we arrived, but obviously likes it here and has grown exponentially. A couple of years ago it was headed back, which worked. But it’s sent out lots of lower branches which cast shade where it’s not wanted.

However, it is also home to a colony of Purple Hairstreaks (Neozephyrus quercus). How to prune the tree without possibly destroying the overwintering eggs/caterpillars?

Thankfully, a question the helpful guys on ukbutterflies.co.uk answered for me. And also sent me scurrying off to find out even more info…
Purple Hairstreaks lay their eggs generally on the South, ie sunniest side of the tree, and choose the most sheltered places. Until relatively recently it was not clear where the caterpillars pupated. But it seems that once on the ground the caterpillar/chrysalis may often be taken by Red ants (Myrmica ruginodis) into their nests and tended in exchange for a sugary secretion which the caterpillar exudes.
So… that’s all amazing. But it also means that I can prune the shadier Northern branches with a less heavy heart!

Not a pristine beauty, but I was happy to have him/her so close to take the photo nonetheless!

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