A REVIEW OF BRITISH LEPIDOPTERA FOR BARON
C H A R L E S DE
FEW people are likely to forget the early months of 1963 since they produced by far the severest period of weather during this Century and for more than 100 years in the south of England, which saw at least eight weeks of almost unbroken frost accompanied by a heavy snow covering. Nothing virtually moved in the realms of Nature tili well on into March when the ground at last began to thaw out. By the middle of that month, however, all the lepidoptera that had been held up, began trickling out together with a few of the hibernated butterflies. T h e sallow blossom, too, was at its most attractive period only in early April. This month saw a good emergence of the noctuid moths that frequent these blooms and towards the end of it the Prominents (Notodontidae) were in fĂźll swing with a good showing of the Scarce Prominent (Odontosia carmelita, Esp.). Butterflies were in quite good numbers by the middle of May, notably the Whites (Pieridae) and the Orange-tip (.Anthocharis cardamines, Linn.), while the Large Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Clossiatia euphrosyne, Linn.) quickly followed with average numbers in most areas. But there was no sign at this part of the season of any early immigrants. T h e first ten days of June provided some of the wĂ¤rmest weather of an otherwise very indifferent summer. During this spell the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus, Rott.) appeared in unusual abundance in the south of England. About the middle of the month that very local little geometrid moth, T h e Grey Carpet (Lithostege griseata, Schiff.) was commoner than for many years in its restricted haunts in the Breck Sand area of the Eastern Counties. It was about this date that a real rarity occurred on the Sussex coast in the form of a specimen of the Alchymist (Catephia alchymista, Schiff.), only the third example of this prize to appear this Century. Those who visited the Wye Valley towards the end of June were delighted to find that the Scarce Hooktip (Drepana harpagula, Esp.) was quite a common denizen of the region among the Narrow-leaved Lime (Tilea cordatd). It had been discovered there the previous year after not having been seen in the country for some twenty years. Accompanying it was the Large Grey Pug (Eupithecia egenaria, Herrich-Schaeffer), also found to exist there in 1962, but now appearing in good numbers likewise among this Lime on which it was bred for the first time. This small geometer had always been regarded as a great rarity even on the Continent. T h e early part of July saw yet another most remarkable discovery among our lepidoptera. A collector, while wandering through some wild country in the west of Scotland, happencd to come on some Burnet moths which he at once realised were somewhat smaller than the normal ones. When he brought some specimens to the Natural History Museum in London, they turned out to be
444 Transactions of the Suffolk Naturalists,
Vol. 12, Part 6
the long-lost New Forest Burnet (Zygaena meliloti, Esp.) occurring some 500 miles from its only previously known locality vvhence it had disappeared almost forty years ago. T h e middle of the month the little Olive Crescent (Trisateles emortualis, Schiff.) reappeared in the same area of the Chilterns vvhere it had been found in 1962, thus bringing sure evidence that it was a regulĂ¤r breeder there, probably for a long period unnoticed. Throughout July the charming Silver-studded Blue (Plebeius argus, Linn.) was in great plenty, mainly on heathlands in Surrey and Hampshire and producing many interesting aberrant forms. In some localities, too, chiefly on downlands in Wiltshire, the Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaia, Linn.) was in exceptional abundance, while in woodlands in that region the White Admiral (Limenitis Camilla, Linn.) and the Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia, Linn.) together with its dark form valezina, were all comparatively numerous. August was no better for warmth than its immediate predecessor, but during the early weeks the Chalk-hill Blue (Lysandra coridon, Poda.) was particularly plentiful on many of the downlands in the south. It was during the early part of this month that the second British specimen of Small Dotted Footman (Pelosia obtusa, Herrich-Schaeffer) was captured on the Norfolk Broads, thus denoting that it is a resident breeding insect, perhaps of long Standing. T h e Vanessid butterflies were slow to appear, but by far the commonest was the Peacock (Vanessa io, Linn.) which had one of its best years for a long time. In contrast the Red Admiral (Pyrameis atalanta, Linn.) was a Virtual absentee, though its near relative, the Painted Lady (Pyrameis cardui, Linn.) was about sporadically, mainly in the south. September seemed to be the best month for most of these species as it did for the meagre numbers (compared with most years) of the commoner migrant Hawkmoths, such as the Death's Head (Acherontia atropos, Linn.) and the Convolvulus Hawk (Herse convolvuli, Linn.). But almost the best weather prevailed throughout the early autumn, especially the first part of October which provided some real warmth and quite a spate of lepidoptera. Most of the late species of moths were out on time and in average numbers including the Sandhill Rustic (Luperina nickerlii, Freyer), on the coast of Kerry. During this period there was no great influx of migrants as in the two previous seasons, but this was yet to come in the third week in October when a most remarkable and late wave of immigration seemed to invade our shores. Foremost among it was the Silverstriped Hawk (Hippotion celerio, Linn.) of which specimens were taken all along the south coast of England and several well inland with even a few appearing right up to the Lowlands of Scotland in early November. In fact it proved to be the largest number of this fine insect, fourteen in all, recorded for any single year since
1885 when just over forty were noted. Accompanying this species were a good many of the Small Mottled Willow (Laphygma exigua, Hübn.), quite a number of the Vestal (Rhodometra sacraria, Linn.), also a few of the Scarce Olive-tree Pearl (Palpita unionalis, Hübn.) and at least one of Rambur's China-mark (Diasemia ramburialis, Dup). This somewhat lean and uneventful year ended with a very good emergence of the Plumed Prominent (Ptilophora plumigera, Esp.) during the second week of November. Apart from the final flash in the pan few seasons have been so devoid of the more regulär migrant butterflies and moths.