A butterfly bonanza

With a few days off work last week, it was great to spend some time around the garden, the river, and the local nature reserve. I’ve mentioned the damselflies already, but I wanted to touch on the butterflies too. All featured here were seen on the same day, Thursday 9th July.

The day started well with a Comma (Polygonia c-album) landing on the table outside and sunning itself for a good five minutes. This is one of my favourite species, and one I have no good pictures of, so I was delighted to have the chance… except of course the moment I stood up to go get a camera, off it went.

The garden is always well-visited by Small White (Pieris rapae) and there are always a few drifting about, either settling on the flower bed and the clover in the lawn (which they are welcome to), or near to my veg beds which I’d rather they left alone! Strangely though, having left all the veg uncovered this year, we’ve nothing like the issues we had with Whites last year. I put this down to a distinct absence of Large White (Pieris brassicae).

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

The garden, and the river, have been home to good numbers of two species in particular.

The first is the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae). This is a common and widespread butterfly, one you probably see around you most sunny days, right through Spring and Summer.

Small Tortoiseshells, presumably making more Small Tortoiseshells...

Small Tortoiseshells, presumably making more Small Tortoiseshells…

The other we’ve seen plenty of is the Peacock (Inachis io). These are usually one of the first butterflies you see in the year, and by July there are far fewer adults about. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot spot them, you just need to direct your eyes in a different direction.


Peacock caterpillars… a prize for the correct count of individuals…

These are Peacock caterpillars. These are in such a mass as they probably hatched relatively recently and haven’t started moving off yet. In fact you can find evidence of the silken cocoon they hatched from if you search about.

Peacock caterpillar with remains of cocoon

Peacock caterpillar with remains of cocoon

This means we’ll likely see a second wave of adults later in the summer, which will then look for places to hibernate. We often get one or two in the shed.

Since we started to great a shady ‘woodland’ bed in part of the garden, we’ve noticed a rise in Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) around the house. This continues to be the case, though I haven’t been taking pictures this weekend.

Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown

We’re getting close to the end of the list now, and a species showing well in garden and reserve, the Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina). I’ve been seeing these in huge numbers around the wildflower areas of the university too. They have quite a distinctive slow, flappy flight, and don’t usually fly very high off the ground. Because they are quite meandering, they can be hard to get a good look at.



The final species around at the moment is the Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus). At first glance it can be easy to confuse Ringlets, Speckled Wood, and Meadow Brown. All three look superficially brown with small, dark eye-spots on the wings. But when you get your eye in, the Ringlet has yellow rings around the eye spot that distinguish it. The wing has a white fringe too.

The Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) that was so active earlier in the year has disappeared for now, occupying a life cycle much like the Peacock. Again, we’ll expect a few more later in the year.

So, those are the current butterflies I’m seeing. How about you? What’s in your garden?

I have taken a couple of moth pictures recently too, but my moth ID skills are really lacking and, at the point I write this, I haven’t established what these are. I’m hoping for some help before the post goes live, but if not these may be going up anonymously!

* Edit * Thanks to Gina Allnatt, Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire, and Barry Warrington, the moths have an ID. See captions below.

Moth 1

Mother of Pearl (Pleuroptya ruralis) – Technically a micro-moth

Moth 2

Old Lady (Mormo maura)

This entry was posted in Invertebrates, New Earswick, Phenology. Bookmark the permalink.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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