Small Purple and Gold Pyrausta aurata

This pretty little daytime-flying Crambid micro-moth is often seen flying around mint, marjoram and related plants. There are 2 broods between May and September, and they can be found in gardens where the caterpillar foodplants are grown. They look very like the Common Purple and Gold Pyrausta purpuralis which has more yellow markings on the wings, is a little larger, and which may also be found in Wyre, breeding on thyme and Corn Mint.

Small Purple and Gold, Button Bridge, 29 July 2018, photograph by Jonathan Cartwright

Dark Green Fritillaries

Craig Reed photographed these lovely Dark Green Fritillary butterflies in Wyre recently. This species was first recorded in the Forest a few years ago and they are now breeding annually. The females use scent to locate violets on which they lay their eggs. When the caterpillars hatch they immediately go into hibernation and only start to feed the following spring, leaving characteristic moon-shapes holes in the violet leaves. They can sometimes be seen basking nearby.

Dark Green Fritillaries, Dowles Valley, 25 June 2018, photographed by Craig Reed

Dark Green Fritillaries, Dowles Valley, 25 June 2018, photographed by Craig Reed

Dark Green Fritillary caterpillar, Longdon, 13 May 2017, photograph by Rosemary Winnall

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

Marbled White butterflies are now on the wing in some of our meadows, the males gliding over the flowers in their search for females. They live in colonies and breed where the grass is long, eggs being dropped amongst the vegetation. The tiny caterpillars emerge in August and overwinter before feeding and growing the following spring. They eat grasses, especially Red Fescue in the early stages. This butterfly has expanded its range northwards in recent years and was first recorded in the Wyre Forest in 1997. This newly emerged adult was seen roosting on Red Clover at 7.00pm.

Marbled White, Bliss Gate, 20th June 2018, photo Rosemary Winnall

Peppered Moths (Biston betularia)

The commonly found Peppered Moths are a well-known example of Darwin’s natural selection. They are normally white with black speckles which enable them to be well camouflaged on lichen-covered trees in rural areas, unlike the naturally occurring melanic black form which are more readily predated. However, in places where there is more air pollution and less lichens, the black form predominate. Now we see both these colour forms and and intermediate one too.

Peppered Moths, Bliss Gate, 26 may 2018 (photo by Rosemary Winnall)

Peppered Moth, intermediate form, Bliss Gate, 13 July 2006 (photo by Rosemary Winnall)

Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, Boloria euphrosyne

These lovely butterflies are now on the wing and flying in sunshine. Their caterpillars need violet plants on which they feed, but the adults nectar on a variety of flowers, especially Bugle. They were close to extinction in Wyre in the early 1990s, but ongoing conservation management by Butterfly Conservation, the Forestry Commission and English Nature to open up sunny sheltered areas has halted their decline and resulted in increased numbers.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary on Bugle, Wyre Forest, 14 May 2018. Photo by Mick Farmer

A wet day in Wyre

Yesterday Wyre Forest Study Group members braved the cold rain and ventured out into Earnwood Copse, following an ancient sunken track down through the woodland. 2 micromoths Diurnea fagella were spotted on tree trunks, as was the attractive harvestman Megabunus diadema. A Larch Ladybird and spiders Diaea dorsata were found in conifers, and down at the stream water crickets Velia caprai were swimming around on the water surface in the eddies. In open areas near the stream Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage was flowering well. But the Sallow catkins were still closed, waiting for warmth and sunshine.

Diunea fagella, Earnwood Copse, 4 April 2018 ©Rosemary Winnall

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Bliss Gate, 3 April 2018 ©Rosemary Winnall

Water Cricket Velia caprai, Bliss Gate 24 April 2005 ©Rosemary Winnall

Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja

In recent years Dark Green Fritillary butterflies have started to breed in sunny open habitat in the Wyre Forest. The caterpillars feed on violets and the adults are on the wing from mid-June to mid-August. Care is needed to distinguish this butterfly from the slightly larger Silver-washed Fritillary.

Dark Green Fritillary female, Wyre Forest, 14 July 2017 ©Brett Westwood