Spring Butterflies by David Dennis, Butterfly Conservation

Small Tortoiseshell (Photo: David Dennis Butterfly Conservation)

Comma (Photo: David Dennis Butterfly Conservation)

This is a great time to look for butterflies – after a cold winter when we’re all a bit short of sunshine.

By April, two groups of butterflies are on the wing – firstly those that have survived the winter tucked away in deep foliage, holes in trees or your garden shed, and then there are those which emerge from their chrysalis as soon as the days get longer, and the weather is warm enough.

In the first group are many familiar ‘garden’ butterflies – Peacock, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, and the original ‘Butter-fly’, the bright yellow Brimstone. This year, all these were seen around the Hilltop villages before the end of March, when the weather was suddenly really warm.


Brimstone (Photo: David Dennis Butterfly Conservation)

Orange-tip (Photo: David Dennis Butterfly Conservation)

So far there are only a few members of the second group around, but most prominent is the Orange-tip, which always looks so fresh and jewel-like with its brilliant white wings and bright orange wing-tips. At least, that is true of the male – the female has no orange – and both sexes have a glorious green lacy pattern on the underside.

At this time of year, you can be sure that any blue butterfly you see is a Holly Blue, which often flies quite high around bushes and trees, and then, any brown butterfly, patrolling in the dappledsunlight of wood edges and rides, is almost certainly a Speckled Wood.

Holly Blue (Photo: David Dennis Butterfly Conservation)

The three white butterflies (often known as cabbage whites) will very shortly be in evidence (Large White, Small White and Green-veined White) and then the season is really under way.

Speckled Wood (Photo: David Dennis Butterfly Conservation)

Good luck!

Help identify and locate butterflies by taking a photo – even a blurry one! –  with the location and date sighted and post to our comment box below.

Photography and Guest Blog by David Dennis.

David Dennis is Chair of Butterfly Conservation www.butterfly-conservation.org



3 responses

  1. I haven’t seen the orange tip or the holly blue yet, but it’s been really cold and wet in Cambridge for the last week or two so I’m hoping it warms up next week and I get to chase butterlies again!

    • Really cold here now also. I think I was lucky to see one. I must ask David Dennis (Butterfly Conservation) what happens to them when it goes cold after a warm spell. Do they seek sheltered nooks and crannies or does it kill them off? Any idea?

      • Hi there,
        Butterflies have had to live with our very variable weather over the last 10,000 years, so they are pretty good at surviving a cold snap. Really wet weather is more of a problem, as they can get waterlogged, and if it goes on for too long, then they may die before they are able to mate and lay eggs. Luckily, most species emerge over quite a long period, so even if some die, others emerge to better weather. You are right that they seek shelter – in crevices on trees, deep in foliage or out in the open on twigs where they can’t get drowned. Let’s hope for their sake – and ours – that it gets warmer and drier soon!

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