Butterfly numbers still low

Despite the sudden good weather, a lot of butterfly species are still only being seen in low numbers if at all. A sample of comments from around Dorset in late July is reproduced below: if you have comments to add, please e-mail them to [email protected]

Dorchester: Butterflies are appearing but in low numbers.  Nothing on my buddleja despite it being in full flower and sun.  Seen 1 Red Admiral, 1 Peacock, 1 Gatekeeper, 1 Ringlet, 1 Meadow Brown and a few Whites – 1 Green-veined and a few Small.

Shaftesbury: My garden buddleias, 3 out of 4 in marvellous bloom, have so far been visited by a solitary Meadow Brown but also the smallest Humming Bird Hawk I have ever seen. In the wider landscape, I have seen one Peacock, and Chalkhill Blues were reported from the butterfly walk on Clubmen’s Down (North Dorset).

Fontmell Magna (North Dorset): lots of buddleia out but only Meadow Browns in evidence.

Gillingham: The only truly abundant butterfly in my garden in the last few sunny days has been the Large White. Gatekeepers are there but in very small numbers, only one Small Tortoiseshell and a huge Buddleia (Dark purple variety) has been completely empty whereas it would normally have Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Peacocks under these conditions.
Moths on the other hand have suddenly taken an upturn with more day flying ones than usual. Night-time catches have been well up, but only since we have had these last few balmy nights. Yesterday turned up  52 species and I am still sorting out last night’s catch which amounts to 43 so far with still a few puzzling micros to be sorted.

Gillingham: Apart from the usual doom and gloom – no Peacocks, Small torts etc on my buddleia, I have one bit of brighter news. I think there may be a big burst of meadow browns round and about. We went down to Horton Wood last weekend, and walked along by the edge of the wood, where there was lots of bramble blossom and a large grassy field where the grass was growing long. There were hundreds of meadow browns. I wonder if the bad weather has made their appearance more concentrated.  I also saw lots of meadow browns near Fifehead Wood in North Dorset. Garden butterflies seem very scarce to me so far.

Winfrith Newburgh (South Dorset): Two buddleias in full bloom and nothing on them. Various whites flitting around and a Gatekeeper yesterday, plus a Ringlet who somehow got into our conservatory. Lots of Silver Y moths and a moth trap drew about 25 species, including Elephant, Eyed, Poplar and Pine Hawk-moths. Out and about in the countryside things are a bit better in good habitats: walking Tadnoll Heath we saw 11 species including a couple of Marbled Whites, several Small Heath and a Grayling.

Poole/Wimborne: I’ve been away, but as far as I can gather, the situation is pretty dire in the Broadstone – Wimborne area, apart from Badbury Rings, which as usual is holding up well, particularly with meadow Browns and Marbled Whites.

Wool: So far this year I have seen just three red admirals on budleias – never more than one in a day. I’ve seen gatekeepers, meadow browns and countless whites on the wing but none nectaring.
In a normal year I’d expect to see commas, painted ladies, peacocks, tortoiseshells, whites and other stuff on the budleias. I often come across blues, holly blues, large skippers and such round the village and so far they have been completely absent.
However – as has been pointed out – if you go out and look in places you’d expect to find butterflies they are there. Perhaps not in the numbers you’d hope for but it may not be all disaster.
Can’t remember the last time I saw a tortoiseshell though.

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