How do butterflies survive the winter?

When the weather turns cold, you may wonder what happens to these insects. Winter poses a problem for butterflies as they cannot get warm enough to become active.  They enter a dormant phase either as an egg, larva, pupa or adult insect, dependent upon species.  This isn’t simply a random choice but is a way of ensuring that the insect’s awakening the following year corresponds with the peak availability of its main food source.  Amazingly the Painted Lady avoids winter conditions completely by migrating long distances to regions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Eggs, larvae and pupae tend to be hidden away, though you may find Large White pupae attached to the walls of your house.  Those species that overwinter as dormant adults include Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma.  The Red Admiral, which has become a common sight in British winters of late, doesn’t enter a proper dormancy but can become active on any suitable sunny days.

The Comma has its name written on the underside in the only white marking, which resembles a comma. When resting with wings closed this butterfly has excellent camouflage, the jagged outline of the wings giving the appearance of a withered leaf, making the butterfly inconspicuous when resting on a tree trunk or when dormant in winter.

The sea urchin-shaped eggs of the Brown Hairstreak are laid singly on the bark of blackthorn, typically on one- or two-year old growth that is in a sheltered area exposed to the sun.  Within the 1mm pin-head sized egg, the larva partially develops before entering hibernation for the winter.  Overwintering eggs are particularly vulnerable to hedge-trimming since they are laid on the youngest growth of the foodplant.

The Orange Tip pupa (or chrysalis) is formed on an upright plant stem that provides a suitable overwintering site, attached by a silk thread girdle.  Green when first formed, the pupa turns light brown to more-closely match its surroundings.  Several crucifers are used as foodplants, especially Cuckooflower in damp meadows and Garlic Mustard along road verges.  It also lays its eggs on Honesty and Sweet Rocket in gardens. The chrysalis will not survive winter if the plant stems are cut down before the adult butterfly emerges in spring.  Leaving part of your garden naturally unkempt helps to benefit other wildlife aswell.

Barry C.

The Holly and the Ivy, December 2021

The Holly and the Ivy are words of this traditional Christmas carol, thought to have Pagan origins and could date back over 1000 years. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Ivy (Hedera helix) were taken indoors during the winter, the hope being that the occupants would endure the cold season just as these hardy plants do.  In addition, they are both brilliant for wildlife, their flowers benefit pollinators and their berries are eaten by birds.

Stroll past any ivy clad wall or tree on a sunny day in late summer and early autumn and you will see a myriad of bees, flies, wasps and butterflies attracted to the rich nectar and pollen offering. A study by Sussex University demonstrated how significant ivy’s presence is to insects. During September and October they showed that the majority of pollen pellets collected by honey bees were from ivy. Hoverflies were also observed to be particularly frequent visitors. Ivy even has its own specialists, including the Ivy Bee (Colletes hedera).

The Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) generally has two generations each year the first in early spring emerging well before other blue butterflies. It tends to fly high around bushes and trees, whereas other grassland blues usually stay near ground level.  It is by far the commonest blue butterfly to found in gardens with a second generation flying July to September.  The larvae feed predominantly on the flower buds, berries and terminal leaves of Holly in the spring generation, and on Ivy in the summer generation.

Although holly berries are often ripe by autumn, birds such as song thrushes, blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings don’t usually feed on them until late winter. The dry pith of ivy berries contains nearly as many calories, weight for weight as Mars bars! In most cases, while the bird digests the pith and juice, the seeds travel undamaged through the bird’s gut, and may be dropped many miles from the parent plant.

New nest boxes in Froyle Feb 2021

In February 2021 twelve RSPB nest boxes were put up on trees in Froyle. These will provide more nesting opportunities for small birds around Froyle recreation ground and near the wildlife pond area. The ‘standard’ boxes are for birds such as blue tits and great tits. The open fronted are for robins and wrens typically.

The natural pale wood will soon weather and darken to be less visible and some will disappear from obvious view when the leaves are on the trees. Thanks to the local volunteers that helped and who worked during lockdown as individual households.

Tree planting on Froyle Rec Nov 2020

Several trees have died in recent years leaving gaps on the eastern edge of Froyle recreation ground (see photo) that could be filled. The tree species planned are Wild Cherry, Whitebeam and Rowan, these would be purchased from British grown stock. Planting by volunteers would then be done November 2020 at the earliest. Information about these tree species can be found in the proposal approved by Froyle Parish Council.

Small young trees will transplant better and after several years will outperform large planted trees. So this will not be an instant effect project but one that should benefit wildlife in the future as well as adding interest for people. Native trees provide food and shelter for local wildlife and give seasonal interest throughout the year. From cascades of blossom in spring to a blaze of autumn leaf colour and fruits.

Update: Volunteers planted 6 new trees on Froyle recreation ground on Saturday 28th November 2020. This was largely done with one household per tree, using their own tools and with social distancing to others. The standard trees were 2 each of Whitebeam, Wild Cherry and Rowan, 2.4m to 3.0m tall, native trees grown in Hampshire. The bare rooted trees were only lifted from the ground the previous day and delivered fresh from Mill Farm Trees, Winchester. We look forward to seeing buds of growth next Spring and the seasonal changes through the year.

   

 

Turtle Doves in Froyle, June 2020

In the last month, a pair of Turtle Doves has occasionally visited a garden in Upper Froyle. They used to be widespread but have suffered a 94% UK population decline since 1995. At this current rate of change if we don’t find a way to help them scientists calculate that complete UK extinction as a breeding species will be a real possibility within just a few years. In Hampshire there are just a few sites where these birds hang on. Finding extra food in gardens can be an important source of nutrition for the birds. Turtle Doves are ground feeders, although you may see them on a bird table and even at a hanging feeder. They often struggle to find sources of water in the summer so please do fill up any bird baths that you may have – or simply put out a shallow dish with water.

Keith Betton is the County Bird Recorder for Hampshire and is keen to hear from anybody who sees these birds around Froyle – or hears their gentle purring call when out on walks. If you can help with sightings (which will not be made public) please contact Keith on 07809 671468 or at keithbetton@hotmail.com.

Rybridge stream overflows Froyle Feb 2020

The wildlife pond and surrounding meadow near Gid Lane is adjacent to Ryebridge Stream that rises from springs in Upper Froyle and flows down to the River Wey. It’s seasonal flow usually dries up in summer and appears to be no more than small ditch. After this year’s exceptional rainfall in February the stream overflowed into the field like a river and made a temporary new lake about 200x20m in size. By mid-March the flood had subsided and the overflow ceased.

Froyle Wildlife photo competition 2019

What better way to connect with nature than to capture images of what you see.  So get out and about with your camera or phone to record what makes Froyle appealing to you. The competition is open to all.

Photographs must have been taken within the parish of Froyle and could include views, wildflowers, trees, animals or insects -whatever you enjoy about local nature. See previous entries and our photo galleries.

The winning photos will be displayed on the Froyle Wildlife website along with at least one photo from each person entering. Entries from under 14’s will be judged as a separate category.

Please submit up to 4 entries by 30th September 2019 either by email to info@froylewildlife.co.uk or at one of our walks and talks. Images should preferably be in landscape format sent as .jpg files or prints maximum 7”x5” size.

Update in October click to see the competition results.

Bentley parish wildlife group 12th April 2019

Are you interested in wildlife and reconnecting with nature? Then come along to the Bentley Wildlife Launch Event on 7.30pm Friday 12th April at Bentley Memorial Hall. Come and hear illustrated talks on

  • The Story of Froyle Wildlife by Barry Clark

and

  • Wildlife Recording in Hampshire by Lizzy Peat from HBIC*

followed by Q & A session and discussion to take the Bentley Wildlife Group forward.

We need a logo! Bring your designs along and you decide which one should be the Bentley Wildlife logo! All entries will be recorded on our facebook group.

*Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre

Wasp spider in Froyle August 2018

A Froyle resident spotted an unusual spider this summer while out walking and sent us some photos. Forbes said:-

“Living in Westburn Fields I regularly walk my dog Stanley around the Froyle Recreational Ground and especially enjoyed the wildflower area during the summer.  This summer I was fortunate to spot a wasp spider on the poppy stems.  With striking yellow and black markings and an impressive spiral orb web, the wasp spider makes for an impressive sight and I was pleased that the photos came out.  It was mid August with the early morning dew really showing off the spiral orb web.”

Forbes also included some photos of the cornfield annuals with poppies in full bloom at the beginning of July.

Wildflowers, butterflies and dragonflies thrive in Froyle, July 2018

One of our members, Simon sent us photos about his afternoon in Froyle, he wrote …

Visiting the wildflower area on Froyle Recreation Ground this Friday revealed a wealth of diverse wildlife. The meadow had a lovely mix of Common Poppies, Corn Flowers, Oxeye Daisies, and Corn Marigolds amongst others. Can you also see the Meadow Brown hiding in the wildflowers meadow picture. The Common Poppies are in various stages of development, from just appearing out of their buds as they un-crease and unfold, to losing their petals for bees to collect the remaining nectar, whilst others have lost all their petals with a 7-spot lady bird and soldier beetle racing to the top. Finally a Gatekeeper and hoverfly gathering nectar from Corn Marigold.

   

   

I then decided to visit the wildlife pond near Gid Lane, Froyle which was teeming with life. There was an abundance of Blue-tailed Damselflies around, as well as Emperor Dragonflies laying eggs in the pond. There was a Meadow Brown butterfly resting on a Knapweed, as well as a freshly emerged Common Blue butterfly on a spent Ox-eye Daisy. You can see many wild flowers in various stages of development, shown here with a dead and new Ox-eye Daisy side by side. There was also a pretty pink and white wildflower -Wild Carrot (usually white flowered). As I then rested on the wooden stump watching the Damselflies and Dragonflies, there was a crack of thunder, followed by a rapidly increasing downpour. That was my time to leave!

   

 

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