Overall this year has been very poor at our place for butterflies and moths with even our usual common species such as Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Large and Small Whites, Peacocks, Gatekeepers, Marbled Whites and Red Admirals all in short supply.
Early in the summer both types of Swallowtail made brief appearances as did Painted Ladies, a handful of Common Blue and Holly Blues whilst in June Some Lesser Purple Emperors graced us with their presence, always welcome as they come down from the treetops to search for minerals that they usually get from any excrement that is to be found.
Click photos to expand.
Above - Lesser Purple Emperor on dog excrement.
Anyway, the purpose of this little note is to mention one butterfly species that have been abundant here this year, in fact exceptionally so and that is the Map Butterfly, Araschnia levana, a pretty little butterfly that has two distinct forms, Araschnia.f. levana and Araschnia.f. prorsa that represent the spring and summer broods respectively. levana individuals are primarily orange in colour, giving them the appearance of a small fritillary, whereas prorsa individuals look more like a very small White Admiral and many people confuse them as such.
Above - Map butterflies 2nd generation
The eggs are laid in little strings bunched together under nettle leaves which are the caterpillar food plant in shaded or partially shaded areas. Late season caterpillars overwinter as pupae that emerge in the following April/May providing the first generation butterflies. The 2nd generation flies from June to August. In the South and Southwest of
a third generation may be produced in some years. The caterpillars in some stages bear some resemblance to Peacock caterpillars that share the same food plant of nettles so it’s worth a closer look. France
Above- Map butterfly caterpillar & Eggs
As mentioned there have never been so many here before for what has previously been a scarce species at our place where we rarely see more than a few in a season and it’s hard to see what if anything has changed.
It is a species that may be benefitting from climate change, who knows? I'll see what happens next year.