This article is the second part to the ‘guide to spring butterflies’, and will suggest some of the butterflies you might see around Combe Down, Monkton Combe and Southstoke as spring develops into summer. Butterfly Conservation run a yearly ‘Big Butterfly Count’, which in 2022 is between the 15th July and 7th August, so you may wish to start familiarising yourself with butterflies you might see in that time.
If you are hoping to see butterflies while out walking, remember to pick a sunny time, perhaps mid afternoon when the day has warmed up – butterflies need the warmth to give them energy to fly. Look through some of the other Wild About Bath journal articles to find out how to attract butterflies to your garden!
This butterfly is rather tiger-like in appearance and is very speedy. You can see them racing across many different habitats from January until late summer, often venturing into gardens. If you happen to catch one basking in the sun, you will notice the ragged edges of its wing which distinguishes it from other butterflies, and the golden comma-like marking on the underwing, from which it gets its name.
Easily confused with the Small White, this butterfly can be distinguished by the dusky vein-like markings on its underwing (these can be quite light, so have a close look). This species likes damp areas with lush grasses, so have a look near ponds or riverbanks.
Meadow Brown & Gatekeeper
These two butterflies are very similar to one another. The gatekeeper (left photograph) has solid blocks of orange with a thick brown border, whereas meadow browns (right photograph) tend to be mostly brown, with a small patch of orange. The gatekeeper (middle photograph) also has two ‘pupils’ in the black spot on its wing, and white spots on the underwing, while the meadow brown has one ‘pupil’, and no white spots on the underwing. They will flutter around most sunny places including gardens, but are very common in hedgerows and field edges (they like brambles).
The Ringlet is brown with a lovely row of white rings on its upper wing, which look like lots of eyes! Like the Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper, you can find them in sunny fields and hedgerows in high summer, and in woody glades.
Marbles Whites are unmistakeable with their stunning chequer-board wings. You can find them in July in unimproved grassland, and they are particularly drawn to tall purple flowers such as thistles and knapweed.
There are a few varieties of Skipper butterflies, but the two you will most commonly find are the Small Skipper and the Large Skipper. The Large Skipper is (of course) larger, and has light chequered patterns at the base of its wings. Both these species are rather small and moth-like, as their wings appear to fold over their backs. They can be found in tall dry grasses, and blend in very well – it’s almost impossible to see them until they suddenly take flight from one stalk to another!
This little butterfly is aptly named, as its wings have a lovely coppery sheen in the sun. It can be found on sunny days (the hotter the better I’ve found), in dry grassy areas.
This is a big, gorgeous butterfly (with a beautiful name to match), and is always exciting to see, although this is not a regular occurrence. It flies high up, in a determined fashion, and can be found in woodland in the summer, often resting on bramble.
There are many more butterfly species to be found through the summer, although many are restricted to certain habitats which you won’t find in Bath (e.g. coastline), and many are more scarce than the ones included in this guide, although you may be lucky enough to find them! Butterflies are such a highlight of the summer, and I would really encourage you to contribute to Butterfly Conservation’s research by recording your sightings on the free ‘iRecord Butterflies’ app!
– By Abby Button
All the photos were taken by Abby Button, except for the Ringlet and Meadow Brown, which were provided by Butterfly Conservation.