Posted by: Ross Gardner | July 15, 2014

An Admirable Return

Readers may remember from my last post that I asserted that, while providing a fantastic nectar source for a great many insects, umbellifer flowers are not often visited by bumblebees and butterflies.  In the light of this it seems fitting that I should post a picture of a White Admiral butterfly briefly nectaring on Hogweed, that common species of umbellifer……

White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) on Hogweed.  Ross Gardner 2014.

White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) on Hogweed. Ross Gardner 2014.

Grabbing this image was a special pleasure, not just because the White Admiral is an especially handsome butterfly, but also  as it was taken in local wood where a few years ago it made a return after a 50-odd year absence.  Until that time I had only seen the butterfly once before.  While still being far from widespread in my home county of Essex, they were once restricted to a handful of (perhaps only two) sites, a situation which is evidently changing.

They have been enjoying a steady increase during the 20th century, at a time when so many species have declined.   It is believed that the same neglect in woodland management, which resulted in less coppicing and more shady woodland that has been the detriment of many species of woodland butterflies, has been a boon to this one.  Even though they enjoy the sunshine as much as any butterfly, they are a true woodland species.  The females seek out the straggly honeysuckle bines in the shadiest of conditions on which to lay their eggs, in preference to the more luxuriant eruptions of flower and foliage that might occur in sunnier locations.

The wood in question, it should be said, is extensively coppiced, suggesting that the two can go hand in hand.  Their return is a most welcome one.


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