Where are all the butterflies?

So far this year, only seven species of butterfly have been seen in the park and in very small numbers. Ian Bushell walked an unofficial transect on Wednesday and sent this message:

Wandered around the park this pm – sunny, light breeze and about 21C.
Lambrok Meadow – 1 x Small White/female Orange Tip [saw male Orange Tip same area yesterday]
Sleeper Field – 1 x Peacock.
Seems they have yet to wake up.

Though not particularly good for the park’s butterflies, the hot summer last year was excellent for butterflies in general. Numbers were high across Britain and led to a record breaking year for some species, among them the large blue.

Three butterflies from last year’s list

The last time we suffered such an extended period of drought was 1976
and that was followed by a precipitous fall in butterfly numbers While the adult butterflies were thriving in the sunshine, the caterpillars’ food plants were withering away; caterpillar pupation depends on its reaching a certain weight so many didn’t pupate at all. Butterflies overwinter either as pupae or as newly hatched adults.

Research has suggested that the summer of 1976 was the worst extreme event to affect lepidoptera since detailed records began. The numbers of more than 50 species plummeted; some have never recovered.

Let’s hope that the cold weather that interrupted the early spring has delayed the butterflies leaving their hibernation but the longer this warm spell goes on, the less likely that seems.

Header picture: Small tortoiseshell photographed by DKG in 2018

More about butterflies:

Peacock caterpillars

2 thoughts on “Where are all the butterflies?

  1. Think I saw a Gate keeper today. Tried to get a picture but it was too quick! I’ve looked at some pictures and this one seems the closest.

    1. Better luck next time! I can’t put it on the list without a picture; our species lists feed into the Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre and they require what they call scientific rigour.

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