25.12.10 Frozen Lagan River

You can’t help but notice that all of our butterflies seem to disappear during the winter. Most are hibernating as caterpillars and pupae, ready to emerge in spring and summer, but a few hardy species hibernate as adults. These are:

These are generally the first butterflies to be seen in spring. The Small Tortoiseshell is the bright orange, black and yellow butterfly with blue shells around the edges of its wings. The Comma is the orange and black one without blue shells. The Peacock is the one with the big eyespots on maroon-coloured wings, the Brimstone is the sulphur-yellow one, and the Red Admiral is the big black one with red bars. That’s winter butterflies in a nutshell! But they are soon joined by more.

Joining the parade are the first Painted Ladies which have begun to migrate from Africa. Also, a few Holly Blues and Speckled Woods have hatched out already this year, in Dublin and the Scilly Isles respectively. And as temperatures rise, more soon appear.

If you’re interested in getting to know more about butterflies this year, check out the links on this website. Especially good sites I know of are British Butterflies, UK Butterflies and Butterfly Conservation.

On the Butterfly Conservation site you can find out about how your butterfly sightings can help scientists monitor the state of our butterfly species, many of which are in decline. Recording butterflies is a really rewarding way to get in touch with nature – as I found out last year when I decided to write down every single one I saw! (But that’s another story!)

UPDATE 15/3/11: Small White and Small Copper now reported. http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/text/853/first_sightings_2011.html

 For further updates follow Butterfly Conservation and UK Butterflies on Twitter.