|Clockwise from top left: Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Comma|
|Clockwise from top left: Silver Washed Fritillary, Red Admiral, Silver Washed Frit, Comma|
|Clockwise from top left: Large Skipper (male), Silver Washed Fritillary (male), Ringlet, Marbled White|
|Clockwise from top left: Silver Washed Fritillary in our garden (female), Ringlet, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown (male),|
It's Fritillary and Purple Emperor time (and Chalkhill Blue, CJ) and until yesterday I hadn't seen either of them. A Silver Washed turned up at home, looking battered from a run-in with a bird, and then in the woods today there were several of these big, powerful, ginger flutters soaring among the trees and coming down to nectar.
Silver Washed Frits are flutters of broad-leaved woodland and although not rare they aren't especially common either. The larvae need violets to survive. Eggs are laid on mature trees close to where violets grow. When Spring arrives the caterpillars (which have over-wintered), climb down the tree to reach the violets where they feed. Once ready to pupate (in June), they climb back up the tree, turn into a pupa and then emerge as adult butterflies a short time later in July.
Violets flower March-June. The road verges where many violets bloom are often cut back in June. You see the problem? The plants the insects rely on are all too often destroyed by early cutting. No violets: no Silver Washed Fritillaries.
We have violets on our lane and last year a Silver Washed visited the garden, so it isn't an enormous leap to associate the presence of the butterfly with the presence of the food source. A few weeks ago, having plotted the whereabouts of the violets in a survey of our lane, I rang the council armed with my evidence, determined to get a stay of execution for the verges and ready to remind them of their duty as regards conservation. Eventually, after a couple of quite funny conversations with people who clearly had never heard of a Silver Washed Frit and didn't know anything at all about butterfly life cycles (but who were brilliantly helpful once I infected them with my butterfly obsession), I got through to the man in charge of grass cutting for the county. I explained the situation and before I could say anything about putting back the verge cut he asked me whether I'd like him to delay the cut and when would be the best time for the butterflies for them to do it? He was brilliant, and told me they'd reschedule our lane cut for the start of July, with the caveat that any dangerous vegetation would need to go sooner. Two weeks ago the verge was duly trimmed and yesterday the butterfly arrived. She was a female and hopefully that bodes well for eggs and more flutters next year. Good on the council for listening and doing their bit for conservation. What a difference they can make to the survival of our insect life.
I'm off to a different wood tomorrow with Uncle B (butterfly whisperer) to look for Emperors. Finger's Crossed.
Hope all are well?