River Wissey Lovell Fuller


August 2020

BUTTERFLIES Butterflies come in a wide range of beautiful colours and add so much to our enjoyment of the countryside. Appearing in sequence through spring and summer the first to emerge in early spring are the large yellow-green ‘Brimstone’ and the smaller ‘Orange Tip’. Later on ‘Large Whites’ are not such a welcome sight for they lay their eggs on brassicas which hatch into greedy caterpillars that defoliate our cabbage plants! There are 57 resident species of butterfly in the Britain plus two regular migrants from Africa – the Clouded Yellow and the Painted Lady. Every ten years or so vast numbers of the latter appear across the length and breadth of Britain, the most recent being last year. Incredibly Painted Ladies, the widest spread butterfly species in the world, fly more than 4,000kms from Africa to arrive in May or June. They use the sun to navigate but are at the mercy of prevailing weather conditions. Whether they migrate or not the success of butterflies is, in part, subject to the weather. The warm, damp summer of 2019 and exceptionally warm, sunny spring this year have been advantageous to a wide range of species. Their numbers are at the highest level for more than twenty years even though many have short life spans. Caterpillars of most species only feed on specific plants so the butterflies need to seek these out to lay their eggs on. A few have even more complicated life cycles. Those who require special habitats in which to thrive have benefited from positive conservation efforts and through some agri-environmental schemes, increased woodland cover and a slowing in the rate of agricultural intensification. Most species of butterflies hibernate in our gardens or the countryside but in different ways. Some spend the winter as eggs, others as small caterpillars among long grass and leaves, while others survive as chrysalises. Five species hibernate as adults, the Brimstone, Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral, tucked away in dark, cool buildings, in ivy or even in our houses. Habitat management can therefore have an impact on the survival of many species. The Butterfly Conservation Organisation not only works to conserve butterflies but also moths and has 30 nature reserves spread across Britain. It also records and monitors populations, provides education schemes and an identification guide. Information is collected with the help of their ‘Garden Butterfly Survey’ by which the public are invited to record and report butterfly sightings in their garden over the course of the year. Check out www.butterfly-conservation.org Butterflies can be physically identified apart from moths by their long thin antenna and by keeping their wings closed when resting; moths keep them open. There are 2,500 species of moths in Britain the majority of which fly at night although there are a number that are active during the daytime. Moths play an important part in pollinating plants and are prey for bats and little owls. Most unwanted are the two species of clothes moths whose larvae feast on our woollen garments

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