For those working long-term in countryside management every year produces something noteworthy and by any stretch of the imagination the year 2013 will be remembered as a special year in terms of butterflies.
As the hot days of July took hold and the fine weather continued through August it seemed that in even the smallest patch of suitable grassland, woodland or garden habitat a glorious profusion of butterflies could be found. In the wild flower areas meadow browns, ringlets, gatekeepers, skippers, small heaths and even common blues turned in a stunning performance that underpinned the long hot summer days. In some of our woodlands increasing numbers of silver-washed fritillaries and white admirals stole the show whilst in our gardens enormous numbers of large whites were accompanied by squadrons of peacock along with a smattering of commas and migrant painted ladies.
As the hot days of summer give way to the September’s more temperate offerings the butterfly show continues particularly on the steely-blue water mint flowers which act as a nectar magnate not only for butterflies but also a variety of bees, moths, and other insects. Here, added to the above profusion was the occasional attractive small copper butterfly.
Where, however, are the red admirals? Peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral butterfly caterpillars are all nettle feeders so if one species thrives then it might be assumed that the others ought to have a good season too. Nature, however, rarely operates in such a simple manner and perhaps predators affected red admirals. There is still time, however, for red admirals to put in some kind of autumn display. At this time of year these butterflies are attracted to rotting apples and the flowers of the much maligned and persecuted ivy.
When might we be blessed with another wonderful show? Only time will tell and good years do seem to be rare but it does demonstrate that when conditions are favourable all is not lost in the butterfly world. In the meantime, the key is to provide suitable habitat for all our wildlife so that when weather conditions are optimum it is able to take full advantage to thrive and increase.