Marsh Fritillary Larvae. Photo: Nigel Spring
2019 was a bumper year for Marsh Fritillaries on our reserve at Alners Gorse with a record number of sightings of the adults and hugely increased numbers of larval webs counted in the Autumn.
The clusters of up to 200 larvae spend the winter months in the leaf litter and emerge on their wispy webs in February and early March to bask in the weak winter sunshine. There has been a notable shortage of sunshine recently but these determined clusters photographed by Nigel Spring on 23/02/2020 were doing their best to bask amongst the oak leaves and their larval food plant, Devil’s-bit Scabious.
We are delighted to say that Scarface, the lost pony, has been found at Alners Gorse, stuck in some dense scrub. Continue reading
Kathy Henderson has been keeping a watchful eye on some of the Marsh Fritillary larval webson the Butterfly Conservation Reserve at Alners Gorse
Adrian Neil has sent us an interesting look at the butterflies seen in the first three months of this year compared to last:- Continue reading
Orange Tips are out! We have had sightings reported from Poole, Marnhull and Monkton Wylde. Spring really is here!
Fresh Orange Tip. Photo: Brian Arnold
Keep up with all sightings on our Recent Sightings page or check our First Sightings page to see what has come out.
We’ve just done the maths and are astonished at how many butterflies have been reported to us in March:
- Number of records received = 244 (a record is a report of butterflies at one time in one place)
- Number of butterflies = 712
This compares to 2013 figures of 17 records containing 20 butterflies.
The 712 butterflies were:
- Brimstone 233
- Comma 40
- Holly Blue 2
- Painted Lady 1
- Peacock 96
- Red Admiral 8
- Small Copper 1
- Small Tortoiseshells 309
- Small White 12
- Speckled Wood 10
Remember – if you want to keep up with which species are out, we have a First Sightings page.
Please keep the records coming in: we would like to report a huge number in April as well.
It seems reports that Small Tortoiseshells were exhibiting courtship behaviour in late February and early March were correct: Andrew Cooper has now photographed one laying eggs on 15 March at Pamphill.
Small Tortoiseshell laying eggs. Photo: Andrew Cooper
Small Tortoiseshell eggs on the underside of a nettle leaf. Photo: Andrew Cooper
This is a month earlier than we would normally expect, which is presumably a reflection of the mild winter and the good weather we are having now. Let’s hope this means we are going to see lots of this butterfly later in the year!
We have had two reports of pairs of Small Tortoiseshells showing what may be mating behaviour amazingly early in the year.
Mike Ridge described two as “pairing” on 24 February in Lyme Regis, while Mark Spencer reported he saw:
2 Small Tortoiseshells today [28 Feb] courting each other high up in the sun at 12.15 p.m. in a garden half way up Glenferness Avenue in Bournemouth
Lyn Pullen also saw two showing interest in each other on 9 March.
Tortoiseshells. Photo: Lyn Pullen
Dorset Branch Records Officer, Bill Shreeves said:
Small Tortoiseshells don’t usually mate until late in the afternoon. Once the male has found a possible mate he has to follow her all day through thick and thin in order to mate, but it may be if it is cold the process can be speeded up. Small Tortoiseshells flying high might be males jousting with each other rather than courtship.
Whatever they were doing, let’s hope we see lots of them this year!