Apart from the little flush of nymphalids awakened by the bright weather of late February, the main emergence of butterflies and moths should start soon. Below, we’ve set out some things to look for. You may not know much about butterflies and moths at the moment, but you will soon be able to recognise the most common ones.
Butterflies (14 ‘Core Bedminster Butterflies’ from four families)
There are about 60 species on the UK list, but some of these are very rare or live in other parts of the country or only fly in from Europe every now and again. After two years of looking by My Wild Bedminster observers, below are the ones that you are most likely to see. Many are very distinctive.
- If it’s white with orange tips to its wings it’s a male orange tip. These are usually amongst the spring butterflies.
- If it’s yellow all over, it’s a brimstone. Again, usually one of the early ones.
- If it’s blue it’s probably a holly blue, but could be a common blue.
- For some you will need to look quite closely. For example, the gatekeeper and meadow brown are similar, but you’ll soon learn the differences.
- Nymphalids like to sunbath, so you should be able to creep up on them and have a good look.
- Whites –so-called ‘Cabbage Whites’ are both the most common and the easiest to confuse with each other. You can try to creep up on them, but the easiest way is to catch them in a net, have a quick look at their markings and then let them go. There are three species: Small, Large or Green-veined White. Or, it may be a female Orange tip, although they usually hide in the grass waiting to be found by the males.
A net will cost about £20, but give hours of fun. Kids enjoy nets and quickly become skillful hunters. You only need to detain the animal for a few seconds, before sending it on its way.
The Field Studies Council (www.field-studies-council.org) publish portable charts (£3-4 each) showing all sorts of things including butterflies, day moths, beetles and dragonflies.
Most butterflies and moths are seen as adults, but caterpillars are quite common too. Google UK butterflies or moths for lots of pictures that will help with identification.
There’s a good chance that during 2019 you will see most, or all, of the 14 butterflies shown in red below and, perhaps, a few more.
Reported in 2017 Reported in 2018 Reported in 2019?
– Small Skipper
Large White Large White
Small White Small White
Green-veined White Green-veined White
Orange tip Orange tip
– Small Copper
Common Blue –
Holly Blue Holly Blue
Small Blue ? –
Red Admiral Red Admiral Red Admiral
Painted Lady Painted Lady Painted Lady
Small Tortoiseshell Small Tortoiseshell Small Tortoiseshell
Speckled Wood Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown Meadow Brown
Of course, you might see something not yet spotted and perhaps Large Skippers, Marbled Whites and Small Heaths are possible. But, who knows?
There are about 2500 moth species in the British Isles. Hawkmoths and Tiger Moths are mostly large and fairly easy to recognise and are often seen in the day time. The following have been reported in 2017 and 2018. Many of the 2018 observations were with the use of a moth trap.
Hawkmoths (Sphingidae): About 18 UK species.
2017 Hummingbird Hawkmoth.
2018 Privet Hawkmoth, Lime Hawkmoth, Elephant Hawkmoth, Eyed Hawkmoth.
If privet and lime Hawkmoth caterpillars feed on privet and lime foliage, what does the elephant Hawkmoth feed on?
Tiger Moths (Eribidae): There are six UK species, plus the related Cinnebar Moth. The tiger species are Ruby Tiger, Wood Tiger, Garden Tiger, Cream-spot Tiger, Scarlet Tiger and Jersey Tiger, but you probably won’t see them all. The Scarlet Tiger was spotted several times in 2017 and 2018. Ruby, Jersey and Garden were reported by Duncan using a moth trap. Cinnebar moths are quite common as are their distinctive yellow and black caterpillars which nest as a group on ragwort.
Again, google British Moths or individual species and you will find lots of pictures.
Where to look
You may spot butterflies and moths anywhere in BS3. Please note Place, Date and Species (eg Dame Emily Park, 5 May, Comma) but add any other information that you like. We’ll assume it’s an adult unless you say differently. We’ll collect your 2019 observations towards the end of the year for the report, but you can share your experiences at any time on our Facebook page.
Random records are fine, but it’s even more useful to monitor a particular place throughout the year. This would be somewhere that you visit quite frequently.
Domestic gardens: In 2017 we had reports from three domestic gardens. By 2018 we had added two more. Can we add YOUR garden to our 2019 list?
Bigger Spaces: In 2017 we had observers at Windmill Hill City Farm and Alderman Moore’s Allotments. In 2018, we added Dame Emily Park and Bower Ashton Allotments. We can either add observers to the existing spaces or identify some additional ones. Or both! Would YOU like to visit at least one large space in BS3 during 2019, preferably quite a few times, but even once is helpful?
If we have neighbours collaborating – My Wild Street – and looking in several nearby gardens, we increase the chances of someone being in the right place at the right time to see interesting visitors.
Of course, you don’t need to stick to butterflies or moths. You could become the BS3 expert on woodlice (37 British species) or ladybirds (47 UK species), if you like.
An Early Bird?
Suzanne of Totterdown reports a garden warbler at the beginning of March. She points out that her RSPB book says they don’t return from warmer climes until April. Is this an early returner or did it not leave? I understand that some Blackcaps (also warblers) stopped flying south some years ago as winters became milder or perhaps a subset always stayed but rarely survived the winter. Anyway, I occasionally see blackcaps in the winter and have had regular visits since December 2018: at least two individuals, a male and a female. They seem to like fatballs.
Please pass this newsletter on to others and invite them to join the BS3 Wildlife Group. They just need to contact me via email: MyWildBedminster@virginmedia.com
Membership is free.