Thursday, 14 January 2016

Butterfly Season Kicks Off

Not so many years ago my first butterfly of the year was likely to be a Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), Comma (Polygonia c-album), Peacock (Inachis io) or Small Tortoisehell (Aglais urticae) awakening from hibernation. Nowadays however, the first species I see is invariably a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).

Essentially an annual migrant to our shores it has not been able to survive our damp winters in the past and they have either had to fly south in the autumn or perish. With our changing climate, the Red Admiral is increasingly able to overwinter in the UK as an adult butterfly and in its immature stages. It does not hibernate in the true sense but will roost during bad weather and must come out to feed during mild spells.

Walking on Ashdown Forest yesterday with Bob, we saw our first Red Admiral of the year. With thick insulating layers of dead bracken to roost in and plenty of gorse in flower to feed on, the heathland of Ashdown Forest offers a safe haven for atalanta to see out the winter.


Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) basking on gorse.

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