Many thanks to Barry Prater of the East of Scotland branch of Butterfly Conservation for this week’s news and picture. Barry writes...
Everyone knows that some of our butterflies hibernate over the winter months, only to reappear once warmer weather comes in spring.
Perhaps the Small Tortoiseshell – main picture – is the hibernating species people will be most familiar with. Once on the wing again, it mates and produces a summer generation of adult butterflies which again breed, and it’s their offspring which will hibernate again, i.e. the grandchildren of the original butterflies.
However, what is less well-known is that we have local moths which also hide away in the cold season. Some of these just sit tight until spring, like the Herald – top left– which over-winters in caves, cool cellars and outbuildings, sometimes in numbers – a bit like bats, while others will pop out to feed from time to time on warmer nights – an example is the Satellite moth, far right. This one gets its name from the two little “moons” or satellites either side of the conspicuous white dot on its wings. Because they hibernate, individual moths of these species can have a long lifespan, from late August when they first emerge from their chrysalis, to May or June the following year.
But just to illustrate the varied strategies which different moths have for survival of the species over winter, consider the Brindled Ochre, bottom left. This appears on the wing typically in October and it mates around this time too.
However, the male then dies but the female waits until the next spring before egg-laying, spending much of this period in hibernation in crevices or cracks in trees. Even more surprising is that this moth doesn’t feed at all as the adult, so all its internal and moving parts have been produced from nutrition gained as a caterpillar – amazing!
More Country Corner in this week’s paper