Monday, 11 July 2011

Butterfly Survey

This week has been brilliant for insects at Paxton Pits. Although we have cut some of the grass-land for hay, there are still plenty of sources for nectar in the margins of the fields and in the trees and bushes nearby. If you want to find bees and butterflies, than I recommend thistles, brambles, knapweeds and of course Buddleia bushes.

Horse Fly
Not all the insects you find are people-friendly. This very attractive local fly with bright green eyes will chomp away at your skin until you scream. A day later you might have an itchy lump the size of a small egg, or your arm may be fatter than your leg. If you swat it, it will shake itself a little and then fly away un-harmed. It's a horse-fly and it has developed a tough hide so that it can survive being swished by horse's and cow's tails. The only other super-fly that I have encountered that is tougher than a horse fly is the African tsetse fly. They can detect movement from far away, even inside a jeep, and then inflict a living hell on you. If you hit them with a rolled up newspaper or even an expensive Nikon lens, they will just laugh at you all the way to your insurers. People have driven off the road in a blind rage due to tsetse flies, but don't use this excuse for your bad behaviour in Little Paxton: We don't have tsetse flies here.
Red Admiral
 Butterflies don't bite or sting and they are very photogenic. Find a good flowering bush or a shrub, stand still, set your camera to macro and fire away. Along with the butterflies you might see bees, beetles and other insects after the pollen, or predators such as hornets and dragonflies that are after the other insects.

This week I have seen a lot of red admirals on the Buddleia, and ringlets, small coppers, Brown Argus and Meadow browns out in the grassland. In the garden we have had both Small and Essex Skippers and in the woods there Holly Blues and Speckled Woods. In the hedge-rows there are Small and Green-veined Whites and the first Gatekeepers are on the wing.


So this is the best time to conduct a survey. "Butterfly Conservation" has organised a Big Butterfly Count that you can get involved with. Just download the ID chart and checklist from their site, go out and fill it in, then upload the results.

You may see some migrants such as Painted Ladies and Hummingbird Hawk-moths, both of which we have seen at Paxton this month.

Go to to get the full details.