Butterflywatch: May sun brings hope for a bumper summer

As our seasons shift forward, the “June gap” now arrives towards the end of May.

In June, people often wonder where the butterflies have gone. Don’t panic. They are mostly hiding in caterpillar or chrysalis form.

By June (or these days, late May), spring butterflies fade into obscurity. But the new crop of midsummer butterflies, whose caterpillars fed up on lush spring greens, are yet to emerge.

Predictions make fools of us all but I think this summer could be the best butterfly season for a quarter of a century.

Last year was the best since 1997, and we have had oodles of sunshine this spring. It has ushered in a surge of small blues (1,000 at just two sites in urban Brighton) and plenty of green hairstreaks too.

June brings four of the most prized British butterflies – our biggest, the swallowtail; the world’s best insect conservation success story, the large blue; our most charismatic, the purple emperor; and a cult favourite, the black hairstreak, a lovely, friendly little butterfly found on blackthorn between Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

So fear not the June gap. This year it will be gone well before the month’s end, as early-hatching summer butterflies adorn the meadows, lanes and parks.

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