Juliet's Jottings

Gatekeeper Butterflies - July 2016

gatekeepr maleOn Daffodil Meadow Gatekeeper butterflies are at their peak. These small bright orangey-brown butterflies are often the last of the browns to emerge. The larger Meadow Browns appear much earlier, as do the Marbled Whites (also a "brown", in spite of their name and colouring). There are a handful of each of these two species still flying around but they have been overtaken by the Gatekeepers. Another of the browns, the Ringlet, can also be found in the damper spots of the Meadow, but they too are now over.

Another name for the Gatekeeper is Hedge Brown, as it is commonly found in tall grasses along hedges or woodland edges, although it also favours open meadows with tall grass. Its caterpillar feeds on a wide range of grasses such as fescues (Festuca spp.)and bents (Agrostis spp.), and it will also use couch grass. The butterfly is common and widespread in southern Britain.

gatekeeper femaleIf you find a basking adult - with its wings spread out to catch the sun - it is quite easy to distinguish the males from the females (right), as the male has a dark sex brand, like a black streak, on the forewing (see top photo).  These charming small butterflies can often be seen nectaring on the yellow fleabane or purple knapweed that grow in the Meadow.

‘A truly fantastic day out. My wife and I were bowled over by the amazing spring colours of rhododendrons and azaleas and there was literally colour everywhere. There are beautiful areas to walk through as well as places to sit. We took a picnic in the hope of being able to sit by one of the ponds and were not disappointed – the reflections were as spectacular as the real thing! The next thing we want to do is return in the autumn to see the colours change as it must be beautiful’

David Parker, Christchurch

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