Spring sunshine brings butterfly abundance to fill ‘that hole in our soul’

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Meadow browns are jinking along lanes, small tortoiseshells are unusually abundant on bramble flowers and purple emperors are attacking drones (trying to film them) in Knepp wildland in West Sussex.

This week’s heatwave – after three months of what Butterfly Conservation‘s Richard Fox calls “nigh on perfect butterfly conditions” – is delivering peak butterfly.

Butterfly Conservation’s garden butterfly survey reports orange tips in 73% of gardens this spring compared with 56% in 2019 and 2018. Some may be the lockdown effect (we are paying more attention) but this third hot summer in a row is enabling butterfly numbers to build up.

Seeking a butterfly challenge? Anyone living south of York could visit a local wood and look for purple emperors and the graceful, gliding white admiral. If you’re near the east coast, check for southern small whites – conditions are perfect for this continental species to become Britain’s 60th resident butterfly. Scottish butterfly fans could find new white-letter hairstreak and small and Essex skipper colonies – all expanding northwards. If you’re near Portland, search for the elusive large tortoiseshell – this “extinct” butterfly is making a comeback.

But mainly, just enjoy this abundance which is hopeful, uplifting and, as Richard Fox says, “fills that hole in our souls”.

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