Summer 2003


We've included some general notes here about a few butterflies found on the Sefton Coast.

Dark Green Fritillary copyright Rob WolstenholmeDark green fritillaries (Mesoacidalila aglaja) have one generation a year. The eggs laid this year will hatch after a couple of weeks. The newly hatched caterpillar eats its own eggshell then hibernates over winter. Caterpillars of the dark green fritillary feed on dog violets which can be found flowering in the dunes in April. The adult butterfly seen July-August rarely stay still long enough to photograph. The adults like feeding from thistles and Hemlock water-dropwort, a native tuberous perennial herb of shallow water.

Speckled Wood copyright Phil SmithSpeckled wood (Pararge aegeria) butterflies have lovely speckles of cream mainly on the forewings and eyespots on the hind-wings and low and behold - they're mainly found in 'woods'! Often seen along the pinewood paths from early spring to late summer.

Grayling copyright Paul WisseGrayling butterflies (Hipparchia semele) are widespread on the coast and southern heaths however, they are on the decline. Graylings have an interesting behaviour pattern. On landing they close their wings and 'flop over' leaving little shadow for any predator. They're also one of the butterflies most likely to land on you. Graylings spend the winter as a larva pupating just below ground level.

Gatekeeper copyright Lynne CollinsGatekeepers (Pyronia tithonus) like to bask in the sun with their wings open. They can often be seen showing their distinctive dark brown band on the outer edge of the wings. Although not found in Scotland the gatekeeper is expanding its range northwards through England. Gatekeepers live in colonies which, at good sites can hold thousands of individuals.

Meadow Brown copyright Phil SmithMeadow brown (Maniola jurtina) butterflies may be confused with gatekeepers but they have much plainer underwings and are larger. Studies have shown that adult meadow brown butterflies regularly travel over 100m. They are found in many habitats including the dunes, roadside verges and parks. Adults can be seen from mid June to mid September. The caterpillars feed off a range of grasses and when young feed during the day but in spring after over wintering they feed at night.