Our garden butterflies do like to stick to schedule – you can pretty much set your calendar by when each species will emerge as an adult.
Take the Peacock as an example (below). In autumn, the adults go into hibernation (one of only five UK species to spend the winter as a butterfly). They emerge on warm spring days in late March or April, mate, the females lay their eggs, and that generation of adults is over by May.
Those eggs quickly hatch into caterpillars, they eat and eat (‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ is not just a story!), then pupate and ultimately emerge as the next generation of adults in late July or early August. High summer is then a time for them to sup large amounts of nectar, before those adults quickly disappear to hibernate with their stomachs full of sugary winter fuel.
Each species has its own particular schedule. In fact, climate change is shifting everything somewhat, so that our butterflies are now a week or two in advance of their former timings – yes, unlike trains, butterflies are arriving early!
The timetables of different species include a few that are spring species but lots that are late summer species, so it means there are lulls at certain times of the year when you see far fewer butterflies than you might expect. In fact, June can seem bereft of them, making some people worry what’s gone wrong!
But there then follows the summer peak, typically from mid July through August, when in a nature-friendly garden they can seem everywhere.
So, here is a colour-coded guide to the commoner species you will find in gardens at this busy summer season. A few other scarcer species might be found in some gardens, but these are your most likely visitors.
Our only acid yellow butterfly - some say this is the origin of the name 'butter-coloured fly'. Never perches with its wings open. Likes to nectar at purple flowers, especially Teasel, scabiouses, knapweeds and thistles.
Large White, Small White, Green-veined White and Brimstone (female)
Telling these four species apart can be difficult, especially as they flap through the garden. The three species with white in their name are often known as ‘cabbage whites’.
Large White male (below), the only one of the three 'white' species with no black spots on the upperwings
Small White male (below) - the dusty grey on the tip of the forewing is limited in extent
Green-veined White female (below) - see how the smoky grey at the wingtips extends down the outer edge.
LARGE, BRIGHTLY COLOURED (MIX OF REDS, BLACKS, WHITES, ORANGES)
Black with thick red bars across the upper wings and white dots on the tips of the upper forewings. Loves Buddleia, Iceplant, Bramble flowers.
Orangery with thick tiger stripes down the front of the forewings. Nectars at Red Valerian, Buddleia, Iceplant, lavenders
Rather salmon-pink in base colour with black spots, plus white spots on the black wingtips. Loves Buddleia, Verbena bonariensis, knapweeds, scabiouses.
Orange with leopard spots – our only butterfly with wildly jaggedy wing edges. Feeds on Ivy, Michaelmas daisies, Iceplant.
Deep red, with four big eyespots on the upperwings; almost black underneath. Feeds on Buddleia, bramble, thistles, Iceplant, Hemp-agrimony.
SMALL AND BLUE
Sky blue above, pale silver below dotted with finest ink spatters; most likely to be seen flitting up and around hedges and bushes, especially Holly and Ivy. Rarely seen nectaring at flowers.
Male is an intense blue above; female is duller but with blue at the base of the wings. Tend to flit low to the ground over meadow areas. Nectar at scabiouses, knapweeds, Marjoram.
DULL BROWN WITH ‘EYE SPOTS’
Chocolate brown dotted with amber dots. Most likely to be seen dancing around where the sunlight comes through the trees. Not usually seen nectaring.
Brown, with a large black eye spot towards the tip of the upper wing above and below. Small area of orange on upper forewing of female. Loves long grass of meadow lawns.
This is the female (below) with the eye spot on the upper forewing in a relatively small area of orange.
Very like Meadow Brown, but usually smaller and with orange patches on upper forewings and hindwings. Usually flitting along hedges with long grass. Loves to feed on Marjoram.
See how there are orange patches in the middle of both the fore and hindwings on the upperside. This is a male, with a black smudge through the forewing orange.
Dark chocolate upperwings; hindwings with line of dark eyespots with creamy outer ring. Likes damp grassy areas.
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i'm so sorry I have had a nightmare sorting this out; can you tell me which variety of butterfly this is flying round the north wales coasthttps://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2544110852497850&set=a.2544109722497963&type=3&size=347%2C463
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