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Map butterfly

Several butterfly species may look slightly different between broods, but of all the European species, that's most dramatic in the Map butterfly Araschnia levana.

map butterfly, Dordogne

The first, spring brood is predominantly orange. This photo, a Map butterfly on cow parsley, is from the Dordogne in May 2012. Sexes are similar. The French name for the Map is, appropriately, carte géographique.

Map butterfly, Danube Delta, summer brood

The summer brood of Maps is blacker and at first sight has similarities to white admiral. This photo, on ground elder, is in Babadag Forest in the Danube Delta in June 2014.

A Norfolk map

The Map butterfly isn't a British species (yet) but the Norfolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation (newsletter, autumn 2015) reports a sighting at a caravan park at Pentney in west Norfolk on 28 September 2015.

Andy Brazil, County Recorder, was impressed by the finder, N I Rix: "Resourcefully, he spotted a camper van with Dutch plates in the park, and on enquiry was told that yes, they had found a butterfly in the van which they had let out of the window.

"So we must presume that our Map had crossed by Eurotunnel — possibly the first butterfly ever to arrive under the Channel instead of over it!"

Andy confirms that this butterfly was a summer brood Map, as would be expected from the date, and that the finder first thought it was a white admiral but happily was alert enough to realise what he had found.

Other Honeyguide nature notes about butterflies

Monarch butterflies - Painted ladies - Glanville fritillary

Dordogne butterflies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Honeyguide's Dordogne holiday

Map caterpillar

Map caterpillar (from Wikipedia): the larval foodplant is stinging nettle.

Map distribution

Map map (I've always wanted to write that) from www.butterfly-guide.co.uk. More recent distribution maps show that the Map butterfly is moving north and is established in Denmark, southern Sweden and Finland.

A potential colonist

The distribution of butterflies is known to be shifting in response to climate change - the move northwards of speckled woods is one of the best known examples.

Map butterflies, if they cross the sea, are a potential colonist, alongside other typically continental species showing in southern England in recent years such as continental swallowtails and long-tailed blues.

That said, if they do appear it may be tricky to tell if they are illegal introductions or it's a natural spread.

A colony became established for a time in the Forest of Dean after being introduced in about 1912. According to Jeremy Thomas, writing in The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland, their demise was partly as one collector hated the idea of foreign species in Britain, but probably also as climate conditions were then not right.

In praise of umbellifers

The first photo of a Map is on cow parsley and the second Map is on ground elder - both common flowers in the umbellifer family, and valuable for feeding insects.

hogweed with caddis-fly

Hogweed often has a burst of late flowering, in October/November, especially when it was cut down earlier in the year. This autumn hogweed at NWT Thorpe Marshes. is pictured with a caddis-fly.


December 2015

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