Queens, sunny spots and sticky tongue
July is the month for sunshine, flowers and butterflies.
Butterflies are seen as indicators of a healthy, well managed habitat – if you have several species of butterfly, you likely have a rich variety of native plants. The UK has 59 species of butterflies – 57 resident species and two regular migrants (the Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow). Butterflies that over winter as dormant adults include Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma. They can often be seen in churches, chapels or outbuildings from which they emerge when the weather warms up.
While most butterflies are not choosy about what plant they obtain their nectar from, they are particular about where they lay their eggs. For example, Skippers, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Ringlet all lay their eggs on grasses, while Peacock caterpillars like munching on nettles and Painted Lady on thistles. Brimstone butterflies choose buckthorn (purging or alder buckthorn), while Common Blue’s caterpillars need bird’s-foot trefoil, black medick, rest harrow or red clover.
Churchyards, with their mix of sunny and shaded places, can hold both grassland and woodland butterflies and if you see a butterfly high in the canopy of an oak, it is probably a Purple Hairstreak. Speckled Wood is a common find in shady places, and its caterpillars favour the coarse, tussocky grasses you might have against a wall or hedge. Commas, by contrast, prefer shorter vegetation and will be emerging in July, so look out for the distinctive wing shape and tiny white ‘comma’ on the underside of the wing.
We would love to know what species you see – please visit our website to download Spotter’s Guide to Butterflies and see what you can find.
All the best,
Diocesan Churchyard Environmental Advisor
www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk - individuals and groups in the diocese receive 20% members discount on all CfGA materials. Use the discount code diomem22