Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Night-time Butterflies

Linda Murphy kindly sent me the picture below of a Brown Hairstreak which came to her overnight garden trap in Merton, Oxon on 25th July.  I'm not aware of this species ever having been caught previously in a moth-trap, but I did once have a Black Hairstreak to a Skinner MV in Finemere Wood, Bucks and Purple Hairstreak is quite well known for its night-time appearances.  Linda's record prompted me to look at some of my own notes and I've gone back through the past seven or eight years to see which species I've had to light in Bucks over that period.  It is actually quite a surprising number:

Dingy Skipper (Westcott disused railway, May 2007)
Grizzled Skipper (Westcott disused railway, May 2007)
Small Skipper (disused railway near Mursley, July 2009)
Green-veined White (Finemere Wood, July 2013)
Purple Hairstreak (Bernwood Forest, July 2011 & Finemere Wood, July 2013)
Black Hairstreak (Finemere Wood, June 2010)
Red Admiral (Westcott garden, September 2008)
Marbled White (Ivinghoe, July 2013)
Speckled Wood (Westcott garden, September 2009)
Meadow Brown (Finemere Wood, July 2013 & Bradenham, July 2013)
Ringlet (five occasions, the most recent being Homefield Wood, August 2013)
Small Heath (Ivinghoe, July 2013)

It is interesting how different species react to light in different ways.  The above all entered the trap, while in 2013 and 2014 I can recall finding roosting Wood Whites, Chalk-hill Blues & Common Blues right next to light traps yet they just sat out the experience on their grass stems and didn't seem to be too disturbed at all. 

We don't normally consider butterflies as being creatures of the night but migratory species such as Red Admiral and Painted Lady certainly do fly nocturnally.  My Red Admiral in September 2008 could quite easily have been on its way south.

Dave Wilton

Brown Hairstreak, Merton 25th July
photo taken by Linda Murphy



  1. I've had Purple Hairstreak a number of times trapping. I remember also trapping at the Ragpits one time and searching near the trap by torchlight, the blue butterflies on grass stems - presumably Common Blue - would orientate themselves to be perpendicular to my torchlight. It was quite entertaining watching them shift around slowly on the stem as I walked around them.

  2. I had a Peacock a couple of weeks back - would probably been about 11.30pm - it was sort of stuck in the funnel of the trap - I took it out and released it elsewhere in the garden - 5 mins later it was back.

  3. This year I've had Speckled Wood, Ringlet and Meadow Brown in trap. Trapping under Oaks at right time of year usually gets a few Purple Hairstreak and Red Admiral is very common in light traps. Must depend to some extent on how disturbed they are because I have also trapped next to these species roosting as well as Blues and Marbled Whites and not had any to light.


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