Butterflies that visit our natural burial grounds
With the weather warming up we have started seeing our first spring pollinators. This has included bees and insects. We have also started seeing our first butterflies. These are one of the animals we love watching at the natural burial grounds because they are beautiful, but they also have their own special symbolic meaning to those who have loved ones resting with us.
With spring just around the corner, we should be seeing more butterflies and moths fluttering in the meadows and woodland. However, as today is ‘national learn about butterflies day’ we thought it was the perfect time to share some of the butterflies you may see at our natural burial grounds.
We have also included a few moths towards the end of this blog because while they are slightly different to butterflies, they are also important pollinators. Sometimes it’s not always easy to identify moths from butterflies but we have included some top tips to help with that too.
Butterflies you may see fluttering about
Here are a few of the butterflies you may find while wandering the woodlands and meadows at our natural burial grounds.
Also known as Polygonia C-album. This Comma was by the wetland at Pembrokeshire Natural Burial Ground.
Also known as Erebia aethiops. These love to visit the heather at Delliefure and are often found in Scotland.
A very common butterfly which is also known as Pieris napi. You can often find their caterpillars on cresses, garlic mustard and horseradish.
Also known as Aphantopus hyperantus. You will often find these in grassy areas. The sheltered glades at Cothiemuir Hill are the perfect place to find these butterflies which is where this photo was taken.
Gatekeeper or Small Meadow Brown
Also known as Pyronia tithonus.
This little butterfly can often be found in meadows hence its name. We often find them fluttering about new native hedgerows in Pembrokeshire. They have an affinity for plants like marjoram and ragwort which is why we like to keep some ragwort in wild areas at the natural burial ground.
Also known as Hipparchia statilinus. You often find these resting on the the trees but this butterfly preferred the Ox-eye daisies at Aylesbury Vale Natural Burial Meadow.
Also known as Melanargia galathea. These butterflies are often found in the South West of England so they are ones you may see at Bath Natural Burial Meadow and Dorset Downs Natural Burial Meadow. However, they can also be seen in other areas across the UK and have a preference for purple flowers as this butterfly photographed at Henley on Thames Woodland Burial Ground shows.
Also known as Vanessa cardui. You can often find these butterflies in places with lots of flowers.
Common Blue Butterfly (Female)
Also known as Polyommatus icarus. The male butterflies are a bright blue, however, the female wings also have brown with orange dots. This female Common blue was enjoying the flowers at Pembrokeshire Natural Burial Ground.
Also known as Pieris rapae. It is also sometimes called the cabbage white because the caterpillar lives on cabbages. We do often see these butterflies fluttering across the meadow.
Also known as Pararge aegeria. You can often find these in woodland which is why they love the woodland at Cothiemuir Hill Natural Burial Ground. The standing stone circle is a fantastic resting place for these butterflies. They also love the woodland at Henley on Thames Woodland Burial Ground and the hedgerow at Pembrokshire Natural Burial Ground.
Also known as Maniola jurtina is often found in grassland. Because we manage our grassland in a very sympathetic way letting the wildflowers grow and ensuring there are areas the grass can grow it helps to support species like this. It’s also important when they are looking for area where they need to overwinter.
Also known as Aglais urticae. While the adults like flowers you will find them near stinging nettles as this is the caterpillar’s food source. Nettles may not be a plant the particularly favoured but its a really important part of our ecosystem. Leaving a wild patch for plants like nettles helps animals like the small tortoiseshell that rely on them. If we want the butterflies we also have to protect their essential habitats.
While some of these may look like butterflies they are in fact moths and are just as beautiful and majestic. Moths and butterflies belong to the same group of insects Lepidoptera, and there is the misconception that moths are often dull, but some are very brightly coloured as you may see.
The main difference between moths and butterflies is how they use their wings. Butterflies hold their wings vertically when they are resting, while moths hold theirs horizontally (there are exceptions to this rule). Moths are often seen at night, hence the saying, ‘like a moth to a flame, while butterflies are out in the day. But there are daytime moths and nighttime butterflies.
Butterflies are often revered (and have their own ‘learn about butterflies day) moths often are not. However, they should be as they are just as beautiful as you can see below. They are important pollinators and they have traits that are just as endearing as the butterfly. That is why we felt it was important to include a few in this blog. Here are a few you may find when walking the woodland and meadows at our natural burial grounds.
Also known as Tyria jacobaeae this little moth is very distinctive and gets its name from the red mineral cinnabar which is very similar to the colour on its wings. You can often find the little yellow and black caterpillars on ragwort which is its main food source. We often get them on the ragwort at Pembrokeshire which is managed to ensure that some can in rewilded corners of the natural burial ground.
Garden Tiger Moth
Also known as Arctia caja. The caterpillars of the garden tiger moth are also called ‘Woolly Bears’ and it’s easy to see why. However, they have suffered a decline due to tidying up of the countryside and early tidying of our gardens. We need to allow caterpillars such as these time to wake up before we spring clean. We also need to leave areas they can call home in the countryside. This Woolly Bear was spotted at Usk Castle Chase Natural Burial Ground.
Puss Moth Caterpillar
This moth gets its name from the ‘cat-like appearance’ it has as an adult. However, it is very striking as a caterpillar and quite easy to recognise. It is also known as Cerura vinula. This Puss Moss was photographed at Aylesbury Vale Natural Burial Meadow.
Yellow Tail Moth
Also known as Euproctis similis. This little white moth is found throughout the UK. It can be identified by its white body and yellow tail (hence the name). They have a very simple defence mechanism. When threatened they will lie on their side and ‘play dead’. We saw this little caterpillar at Pembrokeshire Natural Burial Ground.
Angle Shades Moth
Also known as Phlogophora meticulosa.
What have you seen?
We would love to hear about the butterflies and moths you have seen. You can share these on our Facebook or google or get in touch by email.