By Deirdre Shields of The Field
Monday, 09 June 2008
Deirdre Shields lists butterfly species that have done well in the past 40 years.
Although it is still a rare species, the fortunes of the Silver-spotted Skipper have been transformed since the Seventies. Found in the chalk downs of Southern England, it can be distinguished by the silver-white spots on the undersides of the hind wings. The rise in numbers is thought to be due to three factors that have improved its habitat’s quantity and quality: conservation management; increasing rabbit populations; and climate change.
In recent years, the Clouded Yellow has been seen in above-average numbers. This golden-yellow butterfly is a migrant from the Continent. There have been reports of Clouded Yellow caterpillars in southern parts of England, which suggest overwintering. The increases are due to climate change.
The Red Admiral is one of the more distinctive species and can be seen throughout Britain and Ireland. There is an indication that numbers have increased in recent years and there have been many more winter sightings of late. These climate-related changes are expected to continue with predicted global warming.
The Painted Lady has astounded watchers in recent years, with unusually large numbers of butterflies arriving in Britain from Africa as early as February. Populations tend to peak in late summer when sightings are common in gardens and other flowery places.
The Peacock is one of the most easily recognisable species. Its spectacular eye-shaped markings evolved to startle or confuse
predators. They can be found in most habitats but prefer open, sunny areas near woodland with nectar plants for feeding and egg-laying.
This species is responding well to habitat management. It is found on south-facing chalk grasslands in Southern England. The Chalkhill is faring better than many of the other Blues (there are seven in the UK, most of which are suffering rapid decline).
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