Thursday, 5 March 2015

First spring butterflies in NW-Europe

In Belgium sun was shining today, wind was calm and temperatures rose to more than 10 degrees Celsius, for the weekend temperatures of even up to 14 degrees are predicted. Spring is clearly in the air and this means that butterflies wintering as adult will start to fly again. Today I was lucky to be on fieldwork and during work I already saw 3 butterflies; a red admiral Vanessa atalanta, a comma Polygonia c-album and a male brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni.

a spring 2012 picture of Gonepteryx rhamni

So for the weekend keep your eyes open; apart from the above mentioned species also peacock Aglais io and small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae will start to fly, some of you may even have the luck to see a large tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros. Also don't forget the influx of Nymphalis species last autumn in NW-Europe. Dozens of Scarce tortoiseshell Nymphalis xanthomelas were seen in the Netherlands and the UK, a few even reached Belgium. Undoubtedly some of them will have survived winter and will reappear in the next few weeks. Last autumn I gave a presentation for the Flemish butterfly studygroup on range shifts in NW-European butterflies that contained a slide on recognition of scarce tortoiseshell. Maybe not a bad idea to repeat it here to remind you all of the main features.
Scarce tortoiseshell on the left, large tortoiseshell on the right; all mentioned features are for scarce tortoiseshell and especially feature 4 and feature 6 are constant and the features to look at first.


  1. I am sure your blog will be of interest to many of us here in the UK.
    Let us hope that the Large and Scarce Tortoiseshells will be back here this season. .