Butterflies

Photographs of Butterfies are below. Moths are on a separate page.

Butterflies and moths belong to the large group of insects called Lepidoptera from the Greek lepis meaning scale and pteron meaning wing. Scales are modified hairs and usually contain a pigment that gives the butterfly or moth its colour. But the surface of a scale can be finely ridged which can become close enough to cause interference with the light reflected from the wing to produce their striking iridescent sheens.

The division of Lepidoptera into moths and butterflies is one of common usage and observation. There is no scientific separation of the two. Indeed, in the Linnaean system of classification, butterflies are situated around the middle of the listing for moths. There is as much variation within different groups of moths as there is between moths and butterflies. In other European countries there is less distinction; for example, the French call moths “butterflies of the night”.  In Europe there is a convenient way to distinguish between moths and butterflies… all our butterflies have clubbed antennae. Moths have a variety of shapes and only the burnet moths have clubbed antennae.

Note. Recent research (BMC Evolutionary Biology 9: 208) at a molecular level has shown that butterflies are more closely associated with micro-moths rather than with macro-moths as was previously thought.

In the UK we can find about 70 species of butterfly, about 1600 species of micro-moth with wingspans as small as 5-7mm and about 900 species of macro-moth with wingspans of 60mm as have the Hawkmoths. Some tropical species have wingspans of 300mm!

The Butterflies of Ox Close.
The Brimstone butterfly is a regular but not yet frequent sight. To encourage this species to breed in the wood, in 2003 we planted about 50 saplings of Alder Buckthorn – the larval food plant. In 2009 we were rewarded with their breeding.

Brimstone butterfly. (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Brimstone butterfly. (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Egg of the Brimstone. Confirmation of their breeding in Ox Close.
Egg of the Brimstone. Confirmation of their breeding in Ox Close.
Brimstone chrysalis. An empty pupal case of a Brimstone. The supporting silk thread can just be seen.
Brimstone chrysalis. An empty pupal case of a Brimstone. The supporting silk thread can just be seen.

Other butterflies; click on a thumbnail to see a larger image