Moor Green Lakes Group

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Butterflies

Butterflies Butterfly Recording Butterfly List

Overview

There are some 60 species of Butterflies recorded regularly in the British Isles of which 31 have been seen at Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve since systematic recording began in 2000. Some of these have been one-off or occasional appearances, but most are regular, breeding on different parts of the reserve. A good year will see 23 or 24 species recorded over the flight season.

The various habitats on the reserve attract different species; some prefer the grassland areas, others are tree dwellers, and others are quite happy pottering about along the paths and hedgerows. However, because flight periods differ through the season, not all species will be seen at any one time.

As a general rule, butterflies may be seen flying at any time between March and October, though on really warm days in January and February an odd one may awake from hibernation and make an appearance. However butterflies, more perhaps than any other wildlife species, are sensitive to the weather. An early spring, as in 2012, will see butterflies flying in March, whilst a late spring, as in 2013, may delay appearance until late April or early May. Equally, a warm, dry summer and autumn will see an abundance of species, whilst cold and dull conditions will result in declining numbers or the non-appearance of some altogether.

The life-cycle of the butterfly is one of the most remarkable of all creatures, there being four stages from egg to adult. The egg, or ovum, laid by the adult will eventually hatch into the caterpillar, or larva; this in turn, when fully grown, enters the chrysalis, or pupa, stage, from which the adult butterfly, or imago, emerges. The periods of these different stages varies from species to species. The life-cycle of some is very short, but a few weeks, whilst for others it lasts a whole year. Different species over-winter at different stages, some as eggs, some as caterpillars, others as chrysalis, and a few as adults. This all makes the study of butterflies a most fascinating subject.

Butterflies through the season

During the early months of the year, the only butterflies likely to be seen are those which hibernate as adults, such as Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Red Admiral, which may be awakened by a spell of unusually warm weather.

Late March often spells the start of the season as the temperature rises, and to the hibernating butterflies may be added the Orange-tip.

As spring advances so the butterflies increase with other Whites, Green-veined, Small, and Large, the Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood appearing.

May and June see the Skippers, Small, Large and Essex, the tree-dwelling Purple Hairstreak, the Common Blue, and towards the end of June the first of the meadow species, Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Ringlet.

July is usually the height of the season, perhaps 20 or 21 species in flight, with the prolific Gatekeeper adding to the numbers. August and September see a gradual decline, and by October few species remain, the Small Copper perhaps hanging on at the last.

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