Lulworth Skipper conundrum

a golden brown butterfly on grass stems showing the paw print features on upper forewings
Lulworth Skipper. Photo: Harold Gillen

Marion lives in Preston and is very used to seeing Lulworth Skippers nectaring on Valerian in her garden but since 2016 she has noticed a large number of them regularly settling on the white painted back wall of her house and wonders why there?

View of 8 butterflies on white wall of house

8 Lulworth Skippers on house wall. Photo: Marion Jones

Usually there are between 8 and 12 of them (there are 8 shown in this photo) but on one occasion she counted 22 of them.

After watching them quite carefully for the past week or so, Marion has found that they mostly rest here in the shade in windy weather, with their wings folded up, but sometimes if there is a short, sunny period, they rest with their wings more open.  They are rarely there if there is no wind.  The only other species she has seen with them but only very occasionally is a Marbled White.

The wall they settle on is roughly north facing and is very sheltered, forming one side of a narrow pathway at the back of the house, with a retaining wall and steep south facing grassy hillside on the other side.  They mostly land on the lower metre or so of wall, beneath the downstairs windows.  They don’t land on the brick retaining wall facing it about a metre away.

She also sees the Lulworths regularly on flowers at the front of the house, but hasn’t noticed them using the front wall, which is almost south facing and gets very warm in the sunshine, but is also more exposed when it is windy.

The puzzle is what were they doing there?  The Lulworth seems to be the only one of the Skippers that does this here and Marion wonders whether this is just a place they like to shelter in dull or windy weather?  She also asks why they would prefer to be on her wall rather than settling in the nearby vegetation rather than somewhere so conspicuous?

A number of people from our Dorset Branch of Butterfly Conservation have been asked for their thoughts about this but so far are rather at a loss to fully explain this behaviour.

Before I knew that this had been happening here for a few years, an offbeat thought occurred to me that perhaps with the hordes of people invading the Dorset coast in recent weeks could it just be that these butterflies have had enough and are now doing their own version of social distancing!!

Should anyone reading this have any ideas or suggestions as to why this is happening please email our Secretary, Adrian Neil at:  [email protected]

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