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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 42 RECORDING BUTTERFLIES IN AN IPSWICH GARDEN 1996–2005 RICHARD STEWART

Location and Garden In late November 1995 my wife and I moved to our present house at 112 Westerfield Road, Ipswich, TM169461. It is close to the Westerfield roundabout on Valley Road in a housing area largely composed of detached houses with mature gardens. Close by is the Spinney, a long ‘green corridor’ running at the back of south facing gardens in Borrowdale Avenue, from Westerfield Road right through to Tuddenham Road. The old and new Ipswich cemeteries, two large areas of allotments and the railway line from Ipswich to Lowestoft and the one branching off to Felixstowe are about half a mile away. There is open countryside leading to Westerfield within a third of a mile of our house. For our first year of residence a field opposite was used by Victoria Nurseries and had good peripheral butterfly habitats. This has now become a new housing development. The smaller front garden has not been designed for butterflies. The rear garden, approximately eighty foot in length and forty foot width, was largely overgrown when we moved in. By Spring 1996 many nectar-rich species had been planted. These supplemented the meagre nectar resources already present, which did include a large buddleia close to our rear kitchen and also visible from back rooms upstairs. The garden now fulfils almost all of the criteria listed under ‘Basic Requirements’ in Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Gardening For Butterflies’ (Payne, 1987) being sunlit for much of the day with areas of shelter, having a wide seasonal variety of nectar sources and being close to open countryside. Ideally it should face south but our east facing back garden receives sunlight from the south from mid morning and the taller florets of the main buddleia receive evening sunlight as does the main trunk of a large Silver Birch, Betula pendula, at the bottom of the garden, making it a favoured basking spot for Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta L. Nectar Sources The planting of additional nectar sources was based on ‘Butterfly Plants For The Garden’ (Vickery, 1995), which not only lists the two hundred best nectar sources as compiled from the annual Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey but also gives the Latin names of the best varieties for attracting butterflies: this is particularly important with a plant such as sedum since the variety Sedum spectabile attracts more autumn butterflies than others in the same family. Vickery considers that a good butterfly garden ‘should contain at least thirty different nectar plants with flowering spread from spring to autumn’. Twenty nine plants in our garden have attracted at least on feeding butterfly plus Red Admiral and Comma, Polygonia c-album L. on soft fermenting plums and sap flowing from tree pruning.

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Of the twenty nine plants, the ten attracting the most species, with numbers of butterflies attracted in brackets, have been: Buddleia, Buddleja davidii, actual variety not known (13); Verbena bonariensis (11); Marjoram, Origanum vulgare (11); Buddleia, Buddleja ×weyeriana ‘Sungold’ (8); Aubretia, Aubretia deltoidea (8); Sedum, Sedum spectabile (8); Bowles Mauve Wallflower, Erysimum (7); Candytuft, Iberis amara (6); Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia (5); Arabis, Arabis sp. (4). Thyme, Thymus sp. attracted three species but, planted next to Marjoram, is particularly good for feeding bees. Most of these nectar sources were grouped around a small pond and close to the main buddleia, with another border close by alongside the edge of the lawn. In spring 2002 a small vegetable area was made towards the back of the garden and this was bordered with Arabis, Aubretia, Alyssum, Alyssum sp., Thrift, Armeria maritima and Mossy Saxifrage, Saxifraga hypnoides. This has attracted many early spring butterflies. The planting of Verbena bonariensis has been particularly effective since it seeds freely, has a long flowering season and despite its tall height has a ‘see through’ structure which enables it to be planted in a more sunny position at the front of a border. The main buddleia is constantly pruned during its flowering season – five times in 2005 from 9 August to 22 September – which extended the flowering period until early October. Similar pruning of the Buddleja ×weyeriana ‘Sungold’ , which has yellow flowers forming spherical clusters at the ends of the branches, extended the flowering season up to 25 December, the last visiting butterfly being a Red Admiral on 3 November. With no Nettles, Urtica dioica, in the garden and two Ivy plants, Hedera helix, still maturing, there has been little observation of ovipositing. Records are of Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus L. on Spindle, Euonymus alatus and Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster sp. Both of these are included by Willmott (1999) in an extensive list of larval food plants for this species. The Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines L. has been observed ovipositing on two of its main larval food plants, Honesty, Lunaria annua and Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolaris. As part of the campaign to increase records of the Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni L. in East Suffolk by planting more Buckthorn, Rhamnus sp., its larval food plant, one specimen was placed towards the back of the garden. It has not attracted any ovipositing, the Brimstone being only an occasionally recorded species in the garden. Butterfly Species Recorded In addition to the previously mentioned Red Admiral, Comma, Holly Blue, Orange Tip and Brimstone, fourteen other species of butterflies were attracted to the garden in 1996, the first year of recording. These were: Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola Ochs, Large Skipper, Ochlodes venata Brem & Grey, Large White, Pieris brassicae, Small White, Pieris rapae L., Green-veined White, Pieris napi L., Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas L., Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae L., Peacock, Inachis io L., Grayling, Hipparchia semele L., Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus L., Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina L. and Ringlet, Aphantopus hyperantus L. In 1998 the Wall, Lasiommata megera L. and the Green Hairstreak, Callophrys rubi L. were added, the latter

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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 42

having one of its larval food plants, Gorse, Ulex sp. close to the garden. The only garden sighting of Clouded Yellow, Colias croceus Geoffr. Was made in 2000 and the Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria L. was first recorded in 2001, a day before two were noted in the woodland reserve at Christchurch Park, Ipswich. Both Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris Poda and Purple Hairstreak, Quercusia quercus L. were first noted in the garden in 2003 and in 2004 a Swallowtail, Papilio machaon L. was seen passing through the garden on 4 August. This was observed by two other recorders in Ipswich on the same day (Stewart, 2005) and was probably a released specimen. In addition to Clouded Yellow, Small Skipper and Swallowtail have only been recorded once. The total of twenty six species equals that listed by Goddard (2002) in his garden at Colchester Road, Ipswich which is north facing, but very close to the Ipswich cemeteries, one allotment and the ‘green corridor’ of the branch railway line from Ipswich to Felixstowe. His records extend from 1990 to 2001 and the total is composed of an identical twenty four species to 112, Westerfield Road, which is about a third of a mile distant. His records do not include Clouded Yellow or Swallowtail, but have the addition of White-letter Hairstreak, Strymonidia w-album Knoch and Brown Argus, Aricia agestis D. & S. Both of these species are a possibility in our garden plus the Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus L. The highest number of species recorded in one day was ten on 23 July 1999 and 12 July 2003. Highest totals for individual species were over fifty Small Tortoiseshell on 8 September 2001 and despite 1996 being widely acknowledged as ‘The Painted Lady Year’ highest numbers of this species were thirty on 24 July 2003 rising to thirty three on 31 July. In the same year Red Admiral was recorded on fifty eight days between 6 July and 21 September, with fifty six during the same period for Painted Lady. The latest garden record was of a Comma on 26 November 2001. Early records include a Comma on 12 February 2002 and a Green-veined White on 29 March 2002, but the most unexpected was the sighting of two Red Admirals flying together out of a garden tree on 1 January 2000. They were clearly visible until passing over the rooftop. Tucker (1997) gives a detailed account of the increased overwintering of this species but all previous winter sightings had been of single specimens. Three aberrations have been recorded in the garden: Small Copper ab. caeruleopunctata RĦhl on 8 September 2003, which has blue interneural spots on the hindwings; a Red Admiral with the outer and normally red bands on the hindwing replaced by a straw yellow was recorded on 16 September 2001 but the actual aberration could not be discovered, even after a visit to observe the butterfly collection of aberrations at the Natural History Museum in London; third was a Small Tortoiseshell ab. semi-ichnusoides seen on 30 September 2003 and also the next day (Stewart, 2004). This had several differences in colour to normal specimens, in particular a much lighter blue border along the hindwings. This is produced by high temperatures during the pupal stage. Only one example of territorial behaviour was noted during the ten years of observations. From 1998 to 2002 the Green Hairstreak was observed to position itself on a sunlit leaf of a plum tree and challenge any passing insects, especially the Holly Blue.

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Despite the high number of individual species for a suburban garden an analysis of years 2004 and 2005 reveals respective totals of seventeen and fifteen species with the loss of Small Copper, Wall and Grayling which were formerly recorded each year. There is no obvious reason except for one neighbour removing two large trees and redesigning the garden. The habitats listed in the first paragraph have remained largely intact but there has been a corresponding decrease in sightings of several bird species previously recorded regularly in the garden, including House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, Linnet, Carduelis cannabina, Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis, Whitethroat, Sylvia communis and Spotted Flycatcher, Muscicapa striata. However, one recent addition to the garden butterfly list has been very welcome. The Purple Hairstreak was first recorded in 2003 and has been sighted in the two following years. Attempts to find the nearest colony concentrated on the nearby Spinney, but on the 12 July 2005 several were observed in the evening around a large roadside Oak just twenty yards from our garden boundary and later the same evening Purple Hairstreaks were recorded feeding on aphid honeydew on a tall sunlit Sycamore whose branches overhang the far end of our back garden. References Goddard, S. (2002). Goodbye Colchester Road, Suffolk Argus 26: 10–11. Payne, M. (1987). Gardening For Butterflies. Dedham: Butterfly Conservation. Stewart, R. G. (2004). The Small Tortoiseshell ab. semi-ichnusoides: a Suffolk sighting. Trans. Suffolk. Nat. Soc. 40: 110. Stewart, R. G. (2005). Observations on a Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio machaon L. in Ipswich, 2004. Trans. Suffolk. Nat. Soc. 41: 69–70. Tucker, M. (1997). The Red Admiral Butterfly. Dedham: Butterfly Conservation. Vickery, M. (1995). Butterfly plants for the garden. Dedham: Butterfly Conservation. Willmott, K. (1999). The Holly Blue Butterfly. Dedham: Butterfly Conservation. Richard G. Stewart ‘Valezina’ 112 Westerfield Road Ipswich Suffolk IP4 2XW

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 42 (2006)

RECORDING BUTTERFLIES IN AN IPSWICH GARDEN 1996–2005  

Richard Stewart

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