Despite its name, the Marbled White is more closely related to the subfamily known as the “browns” that the “whites”. This butterfly is unmistakable, its black and white markings distinguishing it from all other species found in the British Isles. This butterfly is found in distinct and often large colonies, south of a line between Glamorganshire in the west and North-east Yorkshire in the east, although it is not found in much of eastern England. It is absent from Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
This butterfly is the most widespread of our hairstreaks. However, it is also a local species, forming distinct colonies which can be as small as a few dozen individuals, although other colonies can be much larger. Both sexes always settle with their wings closed, the brown uppersides only ever being seen in flight. The undersides, by contrast, provide the illusion of being green, an effect produced by the diffraction of light on a lattice-like structure found within the wing scales, which provides excellent camouflage as the butterfly rests on a favourite perch, such as a Hawthorn branch. This butterfly will also regulate its body temperature by tilting its wings appropriately to catch the sun’s rays. This butterfly is found throughout the British Isles – partly due to the wide variety of foodplants it uses, and the wide range of habitats it frequents. However, it is absent from the Isle of Man, Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.
So many Holly blue butterflies in the garden today.
The Holly Blue is primarily found in the southern half of the British Isles, and is a frequent visitor to gardens. This species is renowned for fluctuating wildly in numbers, forming a predictable cycle over a few years, believed to be caused by parasitism from the wasp Listrodomus nycthemerus whose sole host is the Holly Blue. The wasp lays its eggs in Holly Blue larvae, with a single adult wasp eventually emerging from the Holly Blue pupa. In England and Wales this species is widespread and common, south of a line running from Cumberland in the west to County Durham in the east. This species is also found on the Isle of Man and throughout Ireland, but is absent from Scotland except as a scarce vagrant.
While I have seen quite a few of these while out and about this is the first I’ve seen in my garden (studio).
This species is a migrant to our shores and, in some years, the migration can be spectacular. The most-recent spectacle, in 2009, is considered to be one of the greatest migrations ever, with sightings from all over the British Isles that are definitely on a par with previous cardui years.
This species originates from north Africa, and it has been suggested that the urge to migrate is triggered when an individual encounters a certain density of its own kind within a given area. This theory makes perfect sense, since this species can occur in high densities that result in foodplants being stripped bare on occasion with many larvae perishing as a result.
Unfortunately, this species is unable to survive our winter in any stage. This is a real shame, for not only does this species often arrive in large numbers, but is a welcome sight as it nectars in gardens throughout the British Isles in late summer. This butterfly has a strong flight and can be found anywhere in the British Isles, including Orkney and Shetland. An interesting fact is that this butterfly is the only butterfly species ever to have been recorded from Iceland.
This little butterfly is laying eggs on that little plant
Unlike most other “blues”, the Brown Argus has no blue scales on its upperside, both sexes being primarily brown in colour as its common name suggests, although the butterfly does exhibit a blue sheen when at certain angles to the light. Both sexes have beautiful orange spots on the upperside of both forewings and hindwings. This widespread species can be found south of a line between Dorset in the west and South-east Yorkshire in the east, along with colonies in Derbyshire, North Devon, East Cornwall and West Cornwall. It is also found in north and south Wales, but is absent from central Wales. This species is also absent from Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. This species occurs in small, compact colonies, and is not a great wanderer, only travelling a couple of hundred metres, at most, from where it emerged.
The Wall gets its name from the characteristic behaviour of resting with wings two-thirds open on any bare surface, including bare ground and, of course, walls! Many people will have come across this butterfly on footpaths, especially in coastal areas, where the butterfly flies up when disturbed, before setting again a few metres ahead.
The basking behaviour of this butterfly allows it to benefit from the full warmth of the sun whose rays shine directly on the butterfly, but also get reflected back onto the butterfly from whichever surface it is resting on. This habit allows the butterfly to raise its body temperature sufficiently high for it to fly. In particularly hot weather, however, such basking is avoided and the butterfly may even retreat to a suitably-shaded spot to avoid overheating.
This species was once found throughout England, Wales, Ireland and parts of Scotland. Today, however, is a very different picture, with this species suffering severe declines over the last several decades. It is now confined to primarily-coastal regions and has been lost from many sites in central, eastern and south-east England. In Scotland it is confined to coastal areas in the south-west of the country.