When is butterfly season, are they alive all year around, do they migrate or hibernate and what is the rarest species in the UK?

SUMMER may be peak butterfly season but there is significant butterfly activity all year round.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 9:16 pm

The warm, sunny weather can send many fluttering butterflies through our gardens but some butterflies can still be seen in the colder months.

There are 59 butterfly species in Britain and up to 30 others that travel over from elsewhere in Europe.

Some species require specialised habitats such as woodlands so they are unlikely to be seen in gardens.

Some butterflies hibernate during the winter whilst others have a lifespan of two to four weeks during the warmer months.

The species that are most likely to be found near our homes include peacock, red admiral, brimstone, painted lady, small white, large white, small tortoiseshell, green-veined white and comma butterflies.

Here’s everything you need to know about butterflies in the UK at this time of year:

Are butterflies around all year?

Some species of butterfly can be found during the colder months of the year.

Butterflies are usually seen from late March and April onwards until September or October but due to climate change, this may now vary.

The only butterfly you are likely to see flying in the UK in November is the red admiral.

The red admiral can be seen on sunny days late into autumn and will feed on rotting fruit.

They are a bold butterfly so can be seen easily with their colours of red, white and black.

How long do butterflies live for?

Butterflies have an average lifespan of just two to four weeks.

Comma butterflies can live for around a month whilst other species such as the painted lady only live for up to two weeks.

Do butterflies hibernate or migrate?

Some generations of butterfly migrate and hibernate which can more than double their life span.

Brimstone, comma, peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies all hibernate.

In recent years, due to climate change, red admirals are also surviving the winter months.

The brimstone butterfly tends to hibernate in bramble or ivy in sheltered, sunny places.

They then emerge on the first few days of spring.

Comma butterflies mimic dead leaves and have been found amongst honeysuckle and in hazel bushes during the colder months.

Peacocks, small tortoiseshells and red admirals tend to hibernate in hollows and holes but can also hibernate in buildings.

These three species tend to prefer unheated sheds, garages and attics which are dark, dingy and damp.

Some butterflies prefer to migrate during the winter months to a warmer climate.

For example, the clouded yellow butterfly is a migrant specie but they breed in the UK during the summer months before moving onto a warmer location in the winter.

What is the rarest butterfly in the UK?

The heath fritillary is one of the UK's rarest butterflies and was brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to conservation efforts over the last 20 years.

They are usually found on a small number of sites including Somerset, Devon and Cornwall in south-west England, and in Kent in south-east England.

Heath fritillaries have a wingspan of 39-47mm and their upper side is predominantly orange brown and dark brown, with orange spots and white edges.

The most common butterfly in the UK is the meadow brown, with hundreds of the specie living together in open woodland.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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