One of our favourite of all insects and a regular visitor. In March 2022 we were surprised to see an adult flying around, rather ungainly, in the garden and we suspected it was a recently emerged individual. These guys don’t usually appear until April and its rare to have the opportunity to get even a quick blurry snap of the underwing (as shown below) as they normally rest with their wings open.
This species has a claim to fame amongst UK butterflies, in its ability to overwinter in one of two different stages of it’s life cycle (all other species chose just the one usually). Of the four stages – egg, larva, pupa and imago (that’s adult in normal speak), these guys can over winter as both larva and pupa. The individual above must therefore have over wintered as a pupa for it to have emerged so early. Note that March 2022 was extremely sunny and unseasonably warm, especially the last two weeks of the month.
These guys are most frequently seen around our open wooded habitats, for instance a our local Eastwood Farm LNR or Nightingale Valley. But they regularly visit gardens.
A more typical resting poster, seen here in 2021 on our Californian Lilac bush. The larva (caterpillar) feed mainly on certain species of grass, including cocks-foot and Yorkshire fog, both of which we have in the garden.
There is also significant colour variation across the UK, if you are live in the north of the country you will likely find individuals with much less orange type markings as we have further south (as shown above), instead the same markings are usually much whiter. These markings reflect that this species has a number of recognised sub species. Our one is referred to as, Pararge aegeria ssp. tircis.