Aston Lodge Residents Association

Butterflies of Aston Lodge Park

Peacock
Peacock

Everyone likes butterflies. Most are colourful, fly during the day and when nectaring, can be approached quite closely. A total of 27 species has been recorded here, which is a good showing. Of those, some are uncommon and one or two quite scarce. Which species you see will depend on the time of year, whether there are nectar plants nearby, the habitat you are in or are close to and importantly, whether the species' foodplants are growing close by.

The number of butterflies can vary from year to year. Some species are migrants, so can be erratic in appearance, while a bad winter can affect the survival of wintering adults, larvae, or chrysalises. Then there are the parasites that attack the larvae or chrysalises. Their attacks can give rise to cycles of abundance in some species.

You can help by providing nectar plants like Buddleia, Aubretia, Scabious and Phlox, but without foodplants for the caterpillars, there will be no adults to visit your nectar plants. It is important, therefore, that we preserve the rough areas where plants like nettles, thistles and long grass grow.

Common Butterflies

Below are the commoner and more regular species that you might see in your garden, or on walks around the area.

Large or Cabbage White

A serious pest of brassicas. It lays its yellow eggs in groups and is both a local and a migrant species. It can be told from the other white species by the greater amount of black down the edge of the wing. Males have one or no spots on the wing, while females have two.

Large White Male
Large White Male

Small White

Another pest of brassicas but, unlike Large White, lays its eggs singly. It is smaller than the Large White but has less black on the edge of the wing. Again, males have one or no spots while females have two.

Small White Female
Small White Female

Green-veined White

A distinctive species, with its wing veins outlined in blackish and the black at the edge of the wing in discreet patches, rather than continuous. It's not a pest and feeds on Hedge Garlic and Lady's Smock.

Green-veined White Male
Green-veined White Male
Green-veined White - Underside
Green-veined White - Underside

Orange-tip

The male is one of our most distinctive butterflies, while the female could be mistaken for one of the other whites. Her wings are more rounded though. It flies from April to early June and feeds on Hedge Garlic and Lady's Smock. Blackies Lane is a good spot for it, but it will visit gardens where it particularly likes Aubretia.

Orange-tip Male
Orange-tip Male
Orange-tip Female
Orange-tip Female

Brimstone

Overwinters as an adult, so can be seen in early spring, before the leaves appear. Its caterpillars feed on Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn, both of which are scarce in our area, which is why we don't see the Brimstone very often. There is a second brood later in the year.

Brimstone Male
Brimstone Male

Speckled Wood

A species of woodland glades and large gardens. There are two broods: in spring and autumn. Males will bask in sun spots, waiting for females to fly by. They will repel any other males by spiralling up to the canopy, before one of them flies off.

Speckled Wood - Spring Brood
Speckled Wood - Spring Brood

Ringlet

A grassland species, that has spread rapidly across Staffordshire in the last 15 or so years. Above it is rather drab, but the underside shows where its name comes from. It is particularly common on the Grassy Patch.

Ringlet
Ringlet
Ringlet - Underside
Ringlet - Underside

Meadow Brown

The commonest of the grassland species, particularly common on the Grassy Patch. Often mistaken for the Gatekeeper, but it has just one white spot inside the black circle on its wing tip; Gatekeeper has two. It is also larger.

Meadow Brown
Meadow Brown

Gatekeeper

Another common grassland species; again on the Grassy Patch, but also visits gardens. Note the two white dots in the black circle, which separates it from Meadow Brown.

Gatekeeper Female
Gatekeeper Female
Meadow Brown (1 white dot) & Gatekeeper (2 white dots) - Underwings
Meadow Brown (1 white dot) & Gatekeeper (2 white dots) - Underwings

Red Admiral

One of our most familiar migrant butterflies. Up to a few years ago, you would not have found this species surviving the winter, but now there are records of just that. Global warming! The caterpillars feed on nettle, while the adults like thistles, Buddleia etc. It can be one of the last butterflies to be seen, as it is partial to Ivy blossom in early winter.

Red Admiral
Red Admiral

Painted Lady

A well-known migrant species. In fact, it can be found right round the world. It comes here from Africa, so numbers can fluctuate year on year. It can’t survive our winters, but recent radar studies have shown that it makes a return migration! Those arriving in the spring will lay eggs on thistles, that give rise to a second brood in the summer, which may or may not be reinforced by more migrants. The Grassy Patch, with its thistles and Knapweed can be good for them.

Painted Lady
Painted Lady
Painted Lady - Underside
Painted Lady - Underside

Peacock

One of our most familiar and unmistakable butterflies. It overwinters as an adult and has several broods during the year. The caterpillars feed on Nettle while adults like thistles, Buddleia etc.

Peacock
Peacock

Small Tortoiseshell

A very common and familiar butterfly and a frequent visitor to gardens. Its numbers have fluctuated of late and research is going on into the cause of that. It is a migrant as well as a resident. The adults like thistles, Buddleia etc., while the caterpillars eat nettles. They overwinter as adults in outbuildings, Ivy-covered trees etc.

Small Tortoiseshell
Small Tortoiseshell

Comma

A common and unmistakable species that gets its name from the white "comma" mark on the underside of the hind wing... It overwinters as an adult and has several broods in a year. The caterpillars feed on Nettle, while adults are especially attracted to thistles and Buddleia.

Comma
Comma
Comma - Underside
Comma - Underside

Large Skipper

There are 3 "golden" skippers here, they are grassland species, so the Grassy Patch is a good place to look for them. All have stout bodies, hold their forewings at an angle to their hindwings and are swift fliers. The Large Skipper is the largest and it has a mottled wing, while the other two are plain orange.

Large Skipper Male
Large Skipper Male

Small & Essex Skippers

Until recently, we had only the Small Skipper, but Essex Skipper has spread rapidly through the county. Superficially, they look identical, but the tips of the antennae of Small Skipper are brown, whereas in Essex, they are black – like being dipped in ink.

Small Skipper Male
Small Skipper Male
Essex Skipper Female
Essex Skipper Female
Small Skipper & Essex Skipper, Showing Antennae Tips
Small Skipper & Essex Skipper, Showing Antennae Tips

Common Blue

One of the two blue butterflies here. Its caterpillars feed on Bird's-foot Trefoil, which occurs on short turf, edges of paths etc, the Grassy Patch for instance. Any blue butterfly in the garden is more likely to be Holly Blue. The underside of the wings separates the two species.

Common Blue Male
Common Blue Male

Holly Blue

A species with two broods. The caterpillars of the spring brood feed on Holly, while the autumn brood feeds on Ivy. It is the blue butterfly most often seen in gardens.

Holly Blue Male
Holly Blue Male
Common Blue & Holly Blue - Underwings
Common Blue & Holly Blue - Underwings

Small Copper

An unmistakeable species, that is not common here. Look for it on the Grassy Patch, but you may also see it in your garden. Its caterpillars feed on Common Sorrel.

Small Copper
Small Copper

White-letter Hairstreak

Our prize species, though it is very scarce. The larvae feed on Wych Elm, while the adults spend the day in the tree-tops, where they feed on Honeydew from aphids. In hot weather it will come down to nectar on thistles and Blackberries. Your best chance to see one is in late summer, on the Grassy Patch. It is very rare to see them with their wings open!

White-letter Hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak

Remaining Species

For completeness, the remaining species, with only one or two records, are Clouded Yellow, Wall, Small Heath, Silver-washed Fritillary, Green Hairstreak and Purple Hairstreak.

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Copyright © - November 2021. Unless otherwise stated, images and text: David Emley. All rights reserved.