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.
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.
Mick Farmer spotted this Painted Lady in his garden in Bewdley recently, one of the first to be seen locally. It has flown north from its emergence site, probably in North Africa. This cosmopolitan migrant can arrive any time in spring or summer prior to breeding here later in the summer. Eggs are generally laid on thistles and the adults that result in this country show some southerly migration in the autumn.
On sunny days in May Pearl-bordered Fritillaries may be seen flying in Wyre. They are often difficult to track as they fly so quickly like golden jewels above the ground vegetation, but Roger Plant was able to get this beautiful photo of a female when the sun went in and it had stopped for a rest.
This strong-flying immigrant butterfly has flown into Britain from further south. The main breeding grounds are along the edges of deserts in North Africa and Arabia. They arrive in the UK when weather conditions are favourable, generally in May and June, when they breed, laying their eggs on thistles. There is a southwards reverse migration to Africa from September onwards. What an amazing journey for a butterfly! Thanks to Mick Farmer for sending his excellent photograph of this Painted Lady feeding on Pyracantha in his garden.
Mick Farmer has sent me his attractive photographs of a Brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) and a Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) both of which were found in his Bewdley garden recently. The moth flies at night and there are 2 generations a year. The caterpillars feed on leaves of Blackthorn, hawthorns and a few other species, and they overwinter either as caterpillars or as pupae. The Brimstone moth caterpillars feed on Alder Buckthorn in the Wyre area so it is always worth planting one or two of these shrubs in your garden to attract this beautiful daytime flyer. The adults hibernate overwinter.
It is good to know that Dark Green Fritillary butterflies are being recorded again this year in various parts of the forest. Their flight season is usually between the middle of June to the end of August. Thanks to Jon Cartwright who sent in these shots.
This large and beautiful butterfly is one of Wyre Forest’s treasures. It can be seen flying in the forest throughout July where it can be spotted feeding on bramble blossom or sipping honeydew up in the tree tops. The courtship flight, with the male looping around the female is a delight to watch. After mating the female lays her eggs on tree trunks above violet plants in shady woodland. After about a fortnight the tiny caterpillar emerges, eats its eggshell and then spins a small pad of silk on which it hibernates until the following spring when it descends to the ground to search for violets on which it feeds. Mick Farmer has sent in this lovely photograph of 2 pairing on bracken.
Phil Rudlin spotted this male Brimstone butterfly fresh out of hibernation on 12th February 2015 along the disused railway line – spring is coming!
17 March is a very early record for this newly emerged Green-veined White butterfly out and feeding at Bliss Gate in unseasonally hot sunshine.