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PMcS 2006



If there is one group of insects that everyone can relate to (and mainly positively, unless you are a cabbage farmer!) it's the butterflies.  They capture our imagination with their often wonderful colours and many forms, but short adult life span.  Britain supports NN native breeding species along with other migrants and releases.  Some common species such as ... are able to thrive in gardens, whereas many are confined to extremely specialised habitats and habitat conditions.

 Adonis Blue

adonis blue butterfly

It is this specialism which leads to their rarity, especially where recent farming practice has changed.  An example of one such butterfly which has very exacting requirements is that of the Adonis Blue butterfly.  It leads a fascinating life which rather surprisingly is dependant on the yellow ant.

The larva (caterpillar) feeds on horseshoe vetch in short grassland on chalk or limestone usually on the warmer south facing slopes.  The larva and pupa is tended by ant maybe over wintering in the ant hills of the meadow yellow ant.  The ants go as far as to bury the larva at night, sometimes in groups together to protect them!  The ants are supplied with a sweet excretion from the larva, which they obviously like.  After 3 weeks the larva pupates, having been cared for in the ant hills and emerges as the brilliantly vibrant Adonis blue butterfly - see below (the adult).  As an adult it mates and eggs are laid on the larval food source. This species requires warmth, ants, short grassland grazed by sheep or rabbits and less then 5cm (but not so short that there are no flowers) with horseshoe vetch in abundance.  As these conditions are so exacting this species is very vulnerable.

For a personal view of British butterflies go to the private and rather lovely web site 'Butterfly Garden'.  For a more information about butterflies (and moths) visit the site of Butterfly Conservation, and click on the Species link.  Alternatively visit the Natural History Museum's butterfly and moth database to see images of species or the excellent British Butterflies site.

See below for a list of British butterflies listed by English name (taken from the Butterfly Garden web site)

Butterflies a-z:  a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Adonis Blue - Polyommatus bellargus
Black Hairstreak - Satyrium pruni
Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni
Brown Argus - Aricia agestis
Brown Hairstreak - Thecla betulae
Chalkhill Blue - Polyommatus coridon
Chequered Skipper - Carterocephalus palaemon
Clouded Yellow - Colias croceus
Comma - Polygonia c-album
Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus
Dark Green Fritillary - Argynnis aglaja
Dingy Skipper - Erynnis tages
Duke of Burgundy - Hamearis lucina
Essex Skipper - Thymelicus lineola
Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus
Glanville Fritillary - Melitaea cinxia
Grayling - Hipparchia semele
Green Hairstreak - Callophrys rubi
Green-veined White - Pieris napi
Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus malvae
Heath Fritillary - Melitaea athalia
High Brown Fritillary - Argynnis adippe
Holly Blue -Celastrina argiolus
Large Blue - Maculinea arion
Large Heath - Coenonympha tullia
Large Skipper - Ochlodes venata
Large White - Pieris brassicae
Lulworth Skipper - Thymelicus acteon
Marbled White - Melanargia galathea
Marsh Fritillary - Euphydryas aurinia
Meadow Brown - Maniola jurtina
Mountain Ringlet - Erebia epiphron
Northern Brown Argus - Aricia artaxerxes
Orange Tip - Anthocharis cardamines
Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui
Peacock - Inachis io
Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria euphrosyne
Purple Emperor - Apatura iris
Purple Hairstreak - Neozephyrus quercus
Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta
Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus
Scotch Argus - Erebia aethiops
Silver-spotted Skipper - Hesperia comma
Silver-studded Blue - Plebeius argus
Silver-washed Fritillary - Argynnis paphia
Small Blue - Cupido minimus
Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas
Small Heath - Coenonympha pamphilus
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria selene
Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris
Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae
Small White - Pieris rapae
Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria
Swallowtail - Papilio machaon
Wall - Lasiommata megera
White Admiral - Limenitis camilla
White-letter Hairstreak - Satyrium w-album
Wood White - Leptidea sinapis


All images and text are copyright PMcS 2006