Country Corner

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This week’s contribution has been sent in by Barry Prater of the local branch of Butterfly Conservation.

It’s winter once again and, for many folk, there will be the belief that our butterflies and moths have disappeared apart from the few hardy individuals like the Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell which hibernate in garden sheds or behind curtains. It can definitely be a quiet season for the enthusiasts who go out and about spotting them. But, of course, they are still all around really, but mostly not in the fluttering adult stage of their lives. Instead, many of our butterflies overwinter as a caterpillar (such as the Common Blue) or as a chrysalis, such as the Large and Small Whites – these can be found attached to walls and ledges during the winter.

With moths it’s a slightly different story. Yes, many overwinter as egg, caterpillar or chrysalis, but there is a small number of species which are only on the wing at this time of year, such as the aptly named Winter Moth.

These are often spotted in car headlights on November and December evenings, even when it’s a bit chilly. It’s not a particularly stunningly beautiful moth, but it gets on with life in its own way. The females have just stubby little wings and consequently are flightless. My wife, Barbara, says they must be staying at home doing the housework. In reality they can be found on tree trunks after dark ready to mate with a passing male, which is probably better than housework!

Once we get into February the variety of moths on the wing increases slightly and includes the striking Dotted Border (pictured), found quite commonly, like the Winter Moth, in our woodlands and gardens and along hedgerows.