- field notes by Adrian Hoskins
sightings of each brood are highlighted in bold type
policy - details of certain sites where visitor pressure
or trampling may pose a threat to butterflies or alienate
landowners are excluded from these pages.
The butterfly season in Britain is now drawing to an end,
with very few species remaining on the wing. At Stansted
Forest on Friday afternoon temperatures struggled to reach
16C - just about high enough to persuade a Red Admiral, a
Comma and a Speckled Wood to momentarily take to the wing.
Today it was a similar story at Brandy Hole Copse where the
only species flying were singletons of Speckled Wood, Red
Admiral and Painted Lady. Others have been slightly luckier,
with Clouded Yellow, Peacock and Large White reported
yesterday in East Sussex; and Small Copper and Common Blue
seen in the west of Hampshire.
I recently received an e-mail from a guy who has done some
research on parasitic mites.
We knew already that the red velvet mite
( which affects Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites, Small
Skippers, Common Blues etc ) has been studied and found to
detectable effect on the flight performance, orientation
ability or lifespan of the butterflies, but apparently in
New Zealand there are
mites which have an injurious affect on adult moths. They infest the
"ears" on the wings of certain Noctuid moths. Studies have
indicated that at sites where there are no predatory bats the mites attack
both ears making the moths go completely deaf. But in areas
where bats thrive, the mites apparently only attack one of
the ears, so the moth can still detect the bat's acoustic
pulses and take avoiding action. The theory goes that "if
the moth cannot hear the bat, both the moth and the mites
will almost certainly be eaten, so they make sure to keep
one ear functional". Great theory !
At Beachy Head this afternoon there were still plenty of
Clouded Yellows to be seen. I counted 59 in the fields
either side of Hodcombe Farm, but the true number of
butterflies may have been double that figure, as I must have
overlooked many. I didn't see any
or any mating pairs this time but was lucky to see and
photograph an attempted mating. The female was freshly
emerged and still had limp wings, but must have mated
earlier in the day because she rejected the male's advances
by opening her wings and raising her abdomen. At about 1530
the temperature started to fall quite rapidly, and by 1600
all the Clouded Yellows had disappeared into the grasses to
roost. Painted Ladies continued flying for another half an
hour though, with a total of 6 seen.
Clouded Yellow, female rejecting male by raising abdomen to
This afternoon I revisited Brandy Hole Copse, where 5 of us
spent over 4 hours searching in vain for Queen of Spain
Fritillaries. Today's weather conditions were mostly sunny,
and we found plenty of sheltered spots away from the breeze
where temperatures were quite warm - enough to get 8 species
flying. These included 3 or 4 Speckled Woods, 1 Red Admiral,
1 Comma, 2 Painted Ladies ( one freshly emerged ), 1 Clouded
Yellow, 1 Small White, 2 Small Coppers and a Holly Blue but
sadly no sign today of Queen of Spain Fritillary.
Painted Lady, freshly emerged female, Brandy Hole Copse, West Sussex.
On 14th July this year a female Queen of Spain Fritillary
was recorded at a small copse in Sussex. Today, thanks to a
tip off ( thanks Neil ) I had the great fortune to see the
progeny of this female in a field adjoining the copse. We
found many field pansies in the area, and assume
that these were used as the larval foodplant. The
butterflies began emerging on 22nd September, with a minimum
of 6 seen in the last fortnight. Today we saw 2 males, nectaring at thistles & dandelion, basking on a path, and at
roost on maize. Neil Hulme also found a dead male that
appeared to have been attacked by a spider. Other species
seen included 10 Speckled Woods, 3 Commas, 2 Peacocks, 2 Painted Ladies, at least
3 Red Admirals, 2 Brown Argus, 1 female
Brimstone, 1 Large White, 1 Small White and 3 pristine male
Clouded Yellows. At one stage we watched a male Queen of Spain
and 2 Clouded Yellows embroiled in a territorial 3-way
"dog-fight". We also saw 2 Small
Coppers and found several of their eggs. Curiously these were all
laid on withered autumnal red leaves of clustered dock, while
leaves were barren, as were the leaves of several common sorrel
plants ( the most commonly used Small Copper foodplant ).
Incidentally learnaboutbutterflies broke another of our
records today, receiving an an average of 1001 page hits per
day during the last rolling month. We also smashed through
another barrier, receiving no less than 10,962 visitors in
the month of September alone. Unfortunately the high number
of visitors means that running costs for the website are now
very high, so sponsorship is needed urgently....
Queen of Spain Fritillary, male, Brandy Hole Copse, West Sussex.
Click here for more photos.
Clouded Yellow, male, Brandy Hole Copse, West Sussex.
Comma, Brandy Hole Copse, West Sussex.
The Clouded Yellow bonanza continues......
Clouded Yellow, male, Beachy Head, East Sussex
The promised sunshine may have failed to materialise at
Beachy Head today but there were still plenty of butterflies
to be seen. Each of the fields adjacent to Hodcombe Farm had
at least 40 Clouded Yellows in them, including several
freshly emerged males seen hanging from grass stems drying
their wings. I spent most of the day on the scrubby hillside
on the opposite side of the road however, as it was much
easier to photograph the butterflies there in the more
sheltered conditions. Early in the day it was easy to find
Clouded Yellows roosting in the long grasses. Later, when
glimpses of hazy sunlight penetrated through the cloud, I
found several males lateral-basking on the foliage of
traveller's joy and bramble. My favourite Clouded Yellow
moment came just as I was about to leave for home : I always
wondered why Clouded Yellows have that big round spot on
their hindwings - now I know - it's a Diptera landing pad !
This little Muscid fly certainly thought so !
Clouded Yellow, plus guest !
At Beachy Head today Clouded Yellows were still present,
although in much lower numbers compared with last weekend. I
saw about 80 in the fields either side of Hodcombe Farm, and
a dozen or so flying on the scrubby hillside at Shooter's
Bottom, including 2
females. Most spent their time nectaring at the abundant
hawkbit, ragwort, knapweed and scabious flowers. I failed to
find any copulated pairs today although I watched one male
attempting to mate with a Small White, presumably mistaking
it for a
female ! Other species seen included 2 Painted Ladies, 1
Comma, 2 Small Coppers, 3 Small Heaths and a Red Admiral (
the latter flying in from the cliff top, so presumably a
late migrant ).