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.
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.
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.
Whilst out in the Forest yesterday Dave Scott spotted this Grey Shoulder Knot on the bridge near Lodgehill. Roger Plant’s excellent photograph of the moth sitting on grey lichens demonstrates its amazing camouflage!
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.
2 Pyrausta daytime-flying pyralid moths can be seen in Wyre during the summer. Pyrausta aurata, the commoner of the 2, can be found in gardens too where the caterpillars feed on mints, marjoram and other labiates. Mick Farmer spotted this one in Bewdley. The larvae of Pyrausta purpuralis feed on wild thyme and mints in Wyre.
One male Red-tipped Clearwing moth was attracted to a pheromone lure in Bewdley this week, near the river below the Bewdley bypass bridge. Clearwings were rarely seen before pheromones were developed. These are artificially produced chemicals which are very like the pheromones produced by the female moths, and so they attract the males. All clearwing moths are daytime flyers, but are easily overlooked as they can look like wasps when they are flying.
This recent hot weather has meant that many butterflies have emerged from pupation and they have been flying in the sunshine. Mick Farmer counted 40+ Marbled Whites in a meadow in Golden Valley, Bewdley and has kindly sent these lovely photos. We are right on the edge of their range and they have been slowly moving northwards. They were first seen in the Wyre Forest in 1997, and reached Bridgnorth in 2015. They like unimproved meadows with long grass, especially Red Fescue, one of the larval food plants.
This migrant daytime flying moth arrives in Britain from southern Europe and northern Africa from April onwards. It can be seen hovering in front of flowers from which it feeds with its long proboscis. Eggs are laid on Ladies Bedstraw, Madder and Hedge Bedstraw and caterpillars may be found between June and October. Mick Farmer did well to capture this photograph of the moth feeding.
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.