Out of hibernation…..or not?

Update Number 3.


Roosting Peacock Butterfly.                            Photo by Richard M. Jeffery

The winter of 2017/18 may well go down as one of the coldest and wettest for some time, and with the arrival of the Spring Equinox on the 20th of March (at 16.15 pm to be precise) and forecasts of a possible ‘white Easter’ it doesn’t show many signs of retiring gracefully. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that only two further butterfly sightings have been reported since the last update. A single Brimstone was reported by Tony Teperek in his Congerstone garden on the 11th of March, and another Brimstone was seen flying by Derek Spicer’s office window in South Kilworth on the 16th of March.

It has been left to the dedicated moth-ers in the county to provide us with information of species attracted to light traps. There have been fewer numbers recorded in comparison to this time last year, but a few of the hardier moths have taken advantage of brief gaps in the cold to visit garden traps. March Moth, Common Quaker, Hebrew Character, Clouded Drab and Oak Beauty have made up the bulk of the numbers recorded. Jools Partridge noted a Grey Shoulder-Knot in Melton Mowbray on the 14th of March. Graham Finch reported Yellow Horned and Oak Beauty in addition to some of the above on the night of the 14th of March at Charnwood Lodge, and on the following night he recorded Yellow Horned, Pale Brindled Beauty and the first Brindled Pug of the year at Stoneywell Wood.

It is interesting to see how our butterflies survive the ravages of winter, and I am sure that this winter will have tested their endurance to the very limit. Five of our resident butterflies over-winter as adults, although one, the Red Admiral is technically classed as a migrant, and those that do manage to survive the autumn and winter months (and most of them do not) can be seen early in the year on calm, sunny days. The Brimstone, usually one of the first to put in an appearance as the warmer days of spring arrive hibernates deep among evergreens such as Holly and Ivy, usually in wooded areas, especially where Buckthorn is present, but also in our gardens. Ivy, although it has been much maligned in gardens, is definitely worth planting where space allows, and it is not as harmful as myth would have us believe. The Small Tortoiseshell is one of man’s true companions and will usually hibernate in and around our homes, favouring garages, sheds and out-buildings, and even our local churches to keep out of the chilly northerly or easterly winds. Both Peacocks and Commas prefer to overwinter in woods and spinneys, or larger gardens, usually seeking out hollow trees or even holes in the ground (see photo above) to hibernate.

As and when the weather warms up, and it will, any of the above species may be seen to emerge both in the woods and hedgerows, and our gardens. Keep your eyes open and remember to submit your sightings for inclusion in future updates, either via our Facebook page (Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire & Rutland) or using my email address which is on the Committee page of the East Midlands Butterfly Conservation website.