Speckled Wood Butterfly
The appearance of this butterfly changes from north to south, forming a 'cline', where individuals in the north are dark brown with white spots, whilst those in more southerly locations are dark brown with orange spots. This has given rise to a number of subspecies.
The Speckled Wood is unique among British butterflies in overwintering in two stages, as both a caterpillar and a pupa. As a result, there is a mixed emergence with adult butterflies on the wing from April through to September - a few adults being seen as early as March or as late as October, especially in southern sites. There are two or three generations, depending on location and weather conditions and adults of later generations are generally darker than those emerging earlier in the year.
The butterflies feed on honeydew in the tree tops and are rarely seen on flowers, except early and late in the year when aphid activity is low.
The caterpillar feeds on grasses such as Cock's-foot, False Brome, Common Couch and Yorkshire-fog.
Whilst most UK butterflies are in decline, the Speckled Wood has seen a spectacular increase in numbers and distribution over the last 40 years as a result of climate change. It has only moved into the East Midlands since the 1980s. Butterfly Conservation President Sir David Attenborough says: 'The sight of a Specked Wood flitting through the dappled sunlight of a woodland glade is a memorable high summer spectacle.'
The aptly-named Speckled Wood flies in lightly-shaded woodland with dappled sunlight and is a species associated with traditional orchards.
Butterflies often perch in sunny spots, spiralling into the air to chase one-another. The male usually perches in a small pool of sunlight, from where it rises to intercept intruders.
To Learn More
Visit Butterfly Conservation's and UK Butterflies' sites.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018