Early start for one of Surrey’s rarest butterflies

Wood White by Rob Solomon, Butterfly Conservation

Wood White by Rob Solomon, Butterfly Conservation - Credit: Archant

One of Surrey’s rarest butterflies has emerged almost a month earlier than last year because of the recent mild weather, Butterfly Conservation has revealed.

The threatened Wood White was recorded at the start of April, three weeks earlier than in 2013. Weather permitting, it can still be seen throughout June on sites like Oaken Wood – a Butterfly Conservation reserve near Chiddingfold.

Other rare butterflies have also responded to the mild spring in the south of England. The endangered Duke of Burgundy was spotted in Hampshire three weeks earlier than last year and one of the UK’s rarest butterflies - the Lulworth Skipper - first appeared in Dorset in May, more than a month earlier than in 2013.

Last year’s delayed butterfly emergence was due to the coldest start to spring for half a century, but even when looking at the 10-year emergence date mean for 2002 to 2010 some species are still appearing earlier than before.

The Small Blue and the Wall both emerged around two weeks earlier than the 10-year average, while the Holly Blue and the Green-veined White emerged around a week earlier than normal.

“Over the longer term, many butterfly species have shifted their emergence to earlier in the year in response to climate change,” says Butterfly Conservation surveys manager, Richard Fox.

“Our first encounter with a favourite butterfly species each year is a special moment to treasure, but these sightings are also important indicators of how our native wildlife is responding to changes in the environment.”

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Butterfly enthusiasts in Surrey are being asked to record their sightings over the coming months and in the next few weeks can look forward to the emergence of three spectacular woodland species: the Purple Emperor, Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral can be seen at sites such as Bookham Common.

Butterfly Conservation has launched the free iRecord Butterflies app, which allows users to submit their sightings and photos to form part of Butterfly Conservation’s long-running national recording scheme. The results will then be used by scientists to determine how species are faring.


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