HUNT THE BUTTERFLY
Sir, Like many other butterflies the purple emperor seems to be having a poor year in the Midlands. Today in beautiful weather, a long, late-afternoon walk produced just six sightings (compared with over 100 three years ago).
Many other species have had a bad year. Around my house, I have only found one nest of small tortoiseshell and one of the peacock. These are just pupating — several weeks after the normal time. Other “garden” species like the comma and the brimstone also seem scarce.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Butterflies such as the ringlet, whose caterpillars feed on grasses, are abundant, and the holly blue had a good spring brood. In April, your columnist Matthew Oates wrote about a colony in the Cotswolds of the rare marsh fritillary, and when I visited in May, they were abundant.
The ups and downs of our butterfly species seem mainly due to the strange, changing weather conditions.
This year’s numbers are typical of ten years ago. Then a few seasons of abundance were followed by a rapid decline. We all hope for better numbers next year.