Published: 15:20, 14 July 2020
| Updated: 15:20, 14 July 2020
The Big Butterfly Count is flying into view, when we’re asked to note down the butterflies and day-flying moths we see over three weeks in the summer.
To help you know more about what you might spot, here’s a guide to some interesting butterflies and moths and where you’re most likely to find them:
Easy to identify because of its monochrome black and white markings, you can find these in areas of rough grassland and southern downland. To tempt them into your garden, plant some purple flowers such as wild marjoram, field scabious, thistles and knapweeds. The species is not threatened and had an amazing year last year, with the highest numbers on record.
Easy to spot by its characteristic bobbing flight, when it’s newly emerged, the ringlet has a velvety appearance and is almost black, with a white fringe to its wings. The distinctive circles on the underwings, which give the butterfly its name, vary in number and size and may be enlarged and elongated or, rarely, reduced to small white spots. This butterfly loves damp conditions with long grass and nectars on bramble and wild privet flowers. The caterpillars eat wild grasses, so by creating a mini-meadow or leaving some grass to grow long in your garden you may encourage it to breed. Keep an eye out at riverbanks, verges and any shady grassy habitats.
They might be small - only a little larger than a 50p coin - but these butterflies have a big attitude. The males will choose a patch of warm stone or bare ground to bask and wait for a female and will chase away passing insects before returning to their chosen spot. Look for them in a variety of warm and dry places, from chalk grassland to woodland clearings and heathland. They also appear on road verges, field margins and brownfield sites and occasionally visit gardens. Their caterpillars feed on wild sorrels, which are the smaller relatives of the docks that people use to relieve nettle stings.
And don’t forget moths...
This dazzling black and scarlet moth has a slow, buzzing flight and is active on warm, sunny days. It’s attracted to a range of flowers, especially purple blooms including thistles, knapweeds and scabious. Its caterpillars feed on common bird’s-foot trefoil, from which they obtain cyanide to protect themselves from predators - the striking colours of the adult moths also serve as a warning to anything that might eat them.
Silver Y moth
This day and night-flying moth is most numerous in late summer, so the charity is interested in discovering how many have made it to the UK from foreign shores this year. Its fantastic markings make it perfectly camouflaged against predators. Each forewing has a clear unbroken metallic silver ‘y’ marking, its namesake.
The Big Butterfly Count, sponsored by B&Q, runs from Friday, July 17 to Sunday, August 9. For details visit bigbutterflycount.org.
You can download spotting sheets and a butterfly ID chart or free app for iOS and Android to identify and record what you spot. Butterfly Conservation is a charity dedicated to saving the insects. The Big Butterfly Count is a UK-wide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment simply by counting the amount and type of butterflies (and some day-flying moths) we see.