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.
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.
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.
After hibernation in a crack on the bark of a tree, the tiny Silver-washed Fritillary caterpillar descends to the ground in the spring and sets off to search for violet leaves on which it feeds. By June it has grown, moulted several times, and spends much time basking in shafts of sunlight as shown here. It will soon pupate and spend two to three weeks as a chrysalis before emerging in July to fly through Wyre woodland in orange splendour.