The first Clouded Yellow

Yellow butterfly with some black marks and one white spot; the black on the top of the upperside is visible through the wing.
Clouded Yellow, 2018. Photo: Mike Skelton

We had a sighting of the first Clouded Yellow of the year, at Southbourne on 19 March. This is good news for Dorset because a glance at the First Sightings section in the Butterfly Conservation’s national website indicates that it is the first one for the country as a whole.  Of course, it is possible that some even earlier records may come to light later on, but it is nevertheless a significant record.

This Clouded Yellow was seen exactly one month earlier than the first sighting in 2020, which is rather strange since butterflies have been rather slow in coming out this year: maybe some sunny periods in recent days encouraged it.  In the past five years there has been only one earlier record, when one was reported in Burton, Christchurch on the 24  February 2019.

View of a Clouded Yellow on a Spanish bluebell showing fore and hind-wings undersides

Clouded Yellow, 2018. Photo: Michael Skelton

Several years ago, investigations in the Southbourne area produced evidence suggesting that Clouded Yellows were over-wintering on the cliffs towards the sea.  Further support for this view comes from the fact that, in the past five years, four of the earliest reports of this species have all been from the area between Boscombe and Christchurch.  At one time there were reports of Clouded Yellows appearing on Portland before the main migration period, but this has not continued, so they no longer seem to be over-wintering there.

Website Editor’s Note:

Digging back into the archives brought up the article published in our Newsletter No 32 (summer 1999) written by Mike Skelton who had discovered this first evidence of Clouded Yellow over-wintering. We have reproduced this for your interest: Clouded Yellows overwinter in Dorset!

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