Summer is synonymous with butterflies and from bright brimstones to dappled fritillaries, the UK has 59 fantastic species to see. Here are some star species to look out for, and where to find them.
On the wing: June-August
The marbled white is actually a member of the "browns" subfamily. Photo: Richard Bowler (rspb-images.com)
What to look for: Like slivers of Bakewell tart icing, you’re unlikely to mistake these uniquely patterned butterflies for any other. Look for marbled whites in grassy meadows feeding on purple flowers.
Where to look: Go for a walk through tall grasses on a dull day and the butterflies should be flushed out before you. This species is found throughout south and central England and parts of south Wales.
On the wing: July-October
Distinct clouded yellows can be seen as late as November. Photo: Kevin Sawford (rspb-images.com)
What to look for:These late-summer migrants cross the channel on marmalade wings. In good years, with fine weather and southerly winds, vast clouds of them can be seen.
Where to look: You’re more likely to see them along the south coast, on the South Downs and in Cornwall. Visit RSPB Arne to see if it’s a “clouded yellow year”.
On the wing: July-August
Look for purple hairstreaks basking on shrubs and bracken. Photo: Roger Wilmshurst (rspb-images.com)
What to look for: In long, hot summers you might see this butterfly feeding on honeydew deposited by aphids, but it spends most of its time in the treetops. A single oak tree can support a small colony, and oak trees close to disused railway lines are a good place to look, too.
Where to look: You’ll find these dusky butterflies in most of England and Wales and parts of southern Scotland. Take a look at these great hairstreak hunting tips from Mark.
Silver-studded blues get their name from the delicate light blue scales on their undersides. Photo: Eric Woods (rspb-images.com)
What to look for: Little blue butterflies browsing in groups - they're largely found in colonies and prefer lowland heathland or limestone or chalk grassland.
Where to look: Strong populations have been recorded in places with recent disturbance, such as quarried ground or land cleared by fires, but they also need the cover of shrubs. Visit RSPB Minsmere to spot them by their wing edges, like frayed tulle.
The unmistakable male purple emperor is a dazzling sight. Photo: Chris Lloyd (rspb-images.com)
What to look for: Our second largest butterfly usually flies high in the treetops; if you make an early start you might be lucky enough to see the impressive males descending to the ground to probe dung for salts. His Majesty has revolting tastes.
Where to look: The purple emperor prefers deciduous woodland. Head to RSPB Tudeley Woods for your chance to see one. Can you beat Mark's purple emperor count of 92 this year? Take a look at his tips to try your luck.
Even if you can’t make a special trip to see butterflies this summer, don’t worry. You’ll spot plenty of fascinating species on a summer walk. Check buddleia, bramble and, later, ivy flowers beside railway tracks, in parks and gardens and brownfield sites and industrial parks. Explore grasslands, meadows and woodland. Be prepared to wait and be wary of casting a shadow over a resting butterfly.
You can learn even more about butterflies in your Autumn issue of Nature’s Home magazine, or on the RSPB butterfly fact file. And don't forget to get growing and support butterflies in your garden.
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