With all the buzz about the new butterfly on the block, I looked back and réalised (ha ha) that my original post about the Wood White research had been a bit academical.

So here’s a simple explanation of the three butterflies that concern British and Irish readers.

  • The Wood White Leptidea sinapis is found in woods in England and in the Burren region of County Clare, Ireland.
  • The Cryptic Wood White Leptidea juvernica  is widespread in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, outside the Burren.
  • Réal’s Wood White Leptidea reali is not found in the British Isles.
  • All three can be found across Europe, along with other similar species.

All three look identical in the field. It’s a good thing that these butterflies are seldom found in the same place (as far as we know), because distribution is the only way to tell them apart, without cutting up their genitals or doing DNA analysis.

Patrick Barkham, author of The Butterfly Isles which chronicles his successful attempt to find all 59 British butterflies in a the year 2009, has written a great article for the Guardian: