News and Comment


The Dublin Ladybird Project   http://icons.iconarchive.com/icons/ergosign/free-spring/32/ladybird-icon.png

Ballyteigue, Wexford, 2013 by Peter Eeles    «««

Marsh Fritillary on Bull Island by Peter Eeles    «««

Science Spin No. 52, May 2013: ireland's Butterflies    «««

The Cryptic Wood White Leptidea juvernica    «««

Essex and Small Skipper in Ireland    «««

Marsh Fritillary Records Information    «««

DNFC Records Policy    «««

Ireland: Red List No. 4  Butterflies    «««

IUCN Red Data List for Europe    «««

Video on Parasitic Wasp National Geographic Channel   «««

Painted Lady Migration 2009    «««

Monarchs in the News: Latest Migration    «««

Hibernating Butterflies    «««

Feeding a Butterfly (video)    «««

Web sites of Interest    «««


ESSEX Skipper and small skipper in Ireland

Essex Skipper
The Skippers first discovered in Co Wexford in 2006 and found in larger numbers in
subsequent years, have now been re-determined by dissection to be Essex Skipper. 

Chris Wilson reported in August 2006 the discovery of an unusual butterfly in Co Wexford by Jimmy Goodwin. It was then believed to be the Small Skipper. At least ten adults were seen. The report first appeared in Gaggle, August 2006, which may be found at: 
http://www.wexfordnaturalists.com/gaggle.php >>>


Essex Skipper, Fardystown, Wexford, 2007. © D Hardiman  

Essex Skipper, Fardystown, Wexford, 2007. © D Hardiman    Essex Skipper on Yorkshire-fog, Fardystown, Wexford, 2007. © D Hardiman   


However, some doubts were later expressed about the identity of this butterfy and it was suggested that it could in fact be the very similar Essex Skipper. In 2007, careful examination of internal and external features of a number of specimens has confirmed its identity as being the Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola and not the Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris as previously reported. The main external difference between the two skipper species related to the underside of the tip of the antenna which is a orange or brown in the Small Skipper and black in the Essex Skipper. There are also small differences in markings on the upperside of the forewings of the two species. One of these differences is that the brand of androconial scales is shorter and straighter in the Essex Skipper.

The Essex Skippers preferred food plant for egg-laying is the grass Cock's-foot Dactylis glomerata. Its known habitat includes rough grassland, verges, woodland rides and saltmarsh. Intensive investigation in 2007 revealed additional sites in Co Wexford and substantial numbers of adults. This butterfly was first reported in Britain from Essex in 1889 and currently is spreading northwards and westwards from its headquarters which some years ago approximated to the area south of a line from the Humber to the Severn. It has recently become established in the southwest of Wales. It occurs throughout Europe and in Northern Africa eastward to eastern Asia. It is not known as a migrant and how and when it arrived in Co Wexford is a mystery.

It now appears to be well established in Co Wexford.


Small Skipper in Ireland


A photograph of a skipper taken in the Timahoe-Drehid area, on 24 July 2011, appeared to be that of the Small Skipper and fieldwork carried out in 2012 and 2013  confirmed the presence of a population of the species in Co Kildare.

The Small Skipper has been found at low density over a distance of more than two kilometres along the corridor of the abandoned Bórd na Móna Industrial railway which intersects the road from Drehid Cross to Timahoe Cross.

It is widely distributed in England and Wales and in the past decades has spread northwards and into Scotland. It is found throughout mainland Europe, North Africa and eastwards to Iran.


Typical habitat of the Small Skipper includes rough tall grassland, verges, open fields and woodland rides. In Britain it shares the same habitats as the Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) and as the two species are so very similar in appearance they are often not distinguished in the field.

Larval Food Plant:

Its preferred larval food plant is Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) and others include Timothy and False Brome and since these grasses are common in Ireland it is considered that this species, if left to its own devices, will eventually become widespread.
 Small Skipper Photographs


Butterfly Survey  2014 

If you wish to take part in our National Butterfly Survey please download either a Casual or a Site record sheet. These are in pdf format and you will require a copy of Acrobat Reader to open these files. 
Click on the logo if you need to download a free copy of the Reader. 
Adobe PDF icon

A simple Spreadsheet is also available. So if you have Excel you may prefer to submit your records in this format - the database manager will be very pleased! Records from other Databases such as Mapmate are acceptable but please export as tab-delimited file.

Please include a grid reference (if at all possible) or otherwise a good description of the location and the county. 
The local Ordnance Survey Discovery Map should be available in your nearest bookshop.  

Please send your Irish records by email to The Dublin Naturalists' Field Club: 
davidnash at butterflyireland  dot com
Or by post to: 
The Dublin Naturalist Field Club, 35 Nutley Park, Dublin 4, Ireland.

Information on interesting sightings are most welcome by email.
See links above to the Butterfly Phenology pages.



Monarchs in the news 2010-2014


Journey North Home Page

Follow Monarch News at >>> 


October 10, 2019


Monarch Migration

Fall migration south begins approximately mid-August for northern Monarchs. After crossing half the continent of North America, the monarchs reach their overwintering sanctuaries, located at approximately 19.60N, 99.60W, in Central Mexico around November each year.

It's an area only 70 miles wide and within it only 12 mountaintops have the habitat the butterflies need to survive. The Monarchs roost for the winter in Oyamel fir [Sacred Fir (Abies religiosa)] forests which are at an elevation of 2400 to 3600 meters and where temperatures range from 0o to 15o C. The humidity in the forest prevents the monarchs from drying out allowing them to conserve their energy. This provides an ideal microclimate for the butterflies. 

Spring migration north begins in March (untill approx. mid-June), from the monarch sanctuaries of Central Mexico. After living off their fat reserves all winter, tens of millions of Monarchs will head northward producing the next generations of Monarch butterflys. 

Oyamel Fir forest (Abies religiosa) 


Monarch Migration

from the Animal Navigation Website

Map from the Animal Navigation Website at  >>>


Animal Navigation

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) from the eastern North American population make remarkably long migratory journeys in the autumn, some extending more than 3,500 km from Eastern USA and Canada to over-wintering grounds in the neovolcanic belt in Central Mexico.
From the Animal Navigation Website at >>> 

Discovery Tale 
The Two Clues that Led the Scientists to the Monarchs overwintering habitat
Read Their Story at 



Hibernating Butterflies

In autumn the Small Tortoiseshell frequently enters houses in order to seek a sheltered spot to hibernate. 

In earlier times in Ireland when many rooms were unheated the butterflies were able to hibernate safely  until the sun of late March and early April awoke them and they were ready to fly off. 

Modern houses are usually centrally heated and the SmTs awake in the winter and start to fly around. 
They use up their energy reserves and are unable to find adequate natural sources of nectar and thus are likely  to die before the onset of spring. 

I suggest the best approach is to try to feed them a mixture of honey and tepid water or fructose and water.
Small amounts of these mixtures can be absorbed on some cotton wool and placed on a sunny window ledge or at a suitable distance from an electric lamp. 
The reason for the cotton wool is to avoid the butterfly getting stuck in the solution and thus damage its wings.

When the suitably warmed butterfly is placed near the treated cotton wool it should then extend its narrow proboscis  (tubular tongue) and begin to feed. It will probably do so for ten or fifteen minutes. 
Afterwards it should be left in a roomy box in a cool place and allowed to settle down. If needs be it could even be left  in the fridge in a shoebox for twenty minutes. 

The box should then be left in a dark shed or other cool dark place and checked about mid-March. 
Make sure the box is mouse proof! The butterfly should be released on a fine warm day in early April.

Bob Aldwell



Feeding a Butterfly



Exampe of butterflys feeding on a sugar solution from a sponge.
Butterfly feeders can be purchased in Nature Stores.


Video of a captive Monarch butterfly feeding can be seen at 

Journey North Home Page  »»»




Researchers at the Ulster Museum and Butterfly Conservation have made a startling new discovery: a new species of butterfly in Britain and Ireland (2001); the first to be discovered for over 110 years. The new species of Wood White (scientific name: Leptidea reali) looks very similar to the ‘normal’ Wood White (Leptidea sinapis) and has only been identified by examining the genitalia of museum specimens.   

So far, the new species has been found only in Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) and the specimens examined from Britain have turned out to be the normal species of Wood White.  

The discovery was jointly made by Brian Nelson and Robert Nash (Ulster Museum) and Maurice Hughes and Dr. Martin Warren (Butterfly Conservation). This has helped explain a curious phenomenon revealed recently in The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. In Britain, the Wood White is true to its name and found in woodland rides but is declining rapidly, whereas in Ireland it occurs in more open habitats (such as road verges, scrub and sheltered grassland) and has expanded rapidly northwards in recent decades. The phenomenon can now be explained because they are two different, but almost indistinguishable, species that may have different ecological requirements.  

Maurice Hughes (Regional Development Office of Butterfly Conservation in N. Ireland) was one of the research team making the discovery. He said “This is an exciting and important discovery, which helps explain the puzzle of why the Wood White has fared so differently in Ireland compared to Britain. In Ireland we have found that the ‘normal’ Wood White is apparently confined to the scrubby woodland around the Burren in County Clare (making it the rarest Irish butterfly). The 'new' species occurs throughout Ireland, but is absent from Britain (the only one). It has also highlighted the need for renewed effort to conserve all populations of this highly threatened species. We will now be conducting further work in both Britain and Ireland to examine ecological differences and see whether we can find characteristics that can be used to separate the two species in the field.”  

The new species does not yet have an English name, although the scientific name reali is derived from the person who first discovered it in continental Europe. So perhaps “Réal’s Wood White” would be appropriate.

Of course this species has since been discovered in 2011 not to be L. reali but instead is now known as the Cryptic Wood White Leptidea juvernica.


Web Sites of interest



            *    This site features over 800 caterpillars of Britain & Europe. 
             If you have found a caterpillar but can't identify it, this is your first port of call. 
             Identify caterpillars by the plant you found it on or by description, 
             whether it is hairy or smooth, with antlers or just slug-like.

                http://www.whatsthiscaterpillar.co.uk/ >> >>


            *Moth Discussion Group for Ireland 
This forum has been set up to discuss all aspects of moths in Ireland. 
            Details of recent catches, migrants, identification queries and any 
            other relevant topics are welcome.
              It is open to all those wishing to discuss Irish moth related topics.

              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MothsIreland/   >>>


* Online guide to the moths of Britain and Ireland 

          http://ukmoths.org.uk/ >>>




Butterfly conservation Europe Website

Butterfly Conservation has set up an internet discussion forum dedicated to European butterfly recording at: www.bc-europe.org >>>

Status and aims

Butterfly Conservation Europe was formed in 2004 as an umbrella body with the aim of stemming and reversing the rapid decline of butterflies, moths and their habitats across Europe. It also aims to promote all activities and initiatives to conserve butterflies, moths and their habitats, including increasing the resilience of ecosystems across Europe through adaptation of land uses to sustain biodiversity in the face of climate change.

A clear focus of the organisation will be to work with a wide range of partners in Europe, both governmental and non-governmental, to implement the Conservation on Biological Diversity with respect to butterflies and moths and their habitats, and to contribute to achieving the EU target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

The geographical scope of BC Europe comprises all countries that are members of the Council of Europe and includes the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Russia to the Ural Mountains and the whole of Turkey. 

BC Europe is a non-profit making organisation registered in the Netherlands and comprises a non-incorporated consortium (Network) of institutions and organisations working to achieve the mission of Butterfly Conservation Europe.  


The conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats throughout Europe.




The Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia (Rottemburg, 1775) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Co. Donegal
Bob Aldwell and Frank Smyth.   Irish Naturalists’ Journal 32: 53-63.

Report on migrant and notable Lepidoptera in Ireland, 2009: Paul M Walsh, David W Nash, Ian Rippey, Edward Rolston and Angus Tyner Irish Naturalists’ Journal 32: 89-98

The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui L.) migration of 2009 as recorded by the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and an investigation into the origin of the migration Eugenie C. Regan and Emily Gleeson Irish Naturalists’Journal 32: 108-113

A review of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria Euphrosyne (L.)) in Ireland.  David W. Nash and Deirdre M. Hardiman Irish Naturalists’ Journal 32: 132-137.

Addition of Small Skipper butterfly (Thymelicus sylvestris) to the Irish List and notes on the Essex Sipper (Thymelicus lineola) (Leoidoptera: Hesperiidae) Jesmond Harding and Michael Jacob. Irish Naturalists’ Journal 32: 142-144.

Confirmation of the presence of the small skipper butterfly Thymelicus sylvestris (Poda, 1761) (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) in Ireland. Niamh Lennon, Bob Aldwell, Deirdre Hardiman, David Nash and Frank Smyth. Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society No. 37: 17-19.




Gynandromorph of the Green-veined White

Stuart Dunlop observed a photographed a Green-veined White in mid-May near Raphoe Co Donegal. This butterfly displayed bilateral asymmetry with the righthand side with markings of a male and the lefthand that of a female. Such a phenomenon is very rarely reported for this butterfly, probably because it is very difficult to observethe differences in wing patterns in flight. More frequently observed are bilateral asymmetry in Orange Tip and Common Blue butterlies. See Stuart's blog at donegal-wildlfe.blogspot.ie

Green-veined White © Stuart Dunlop

A gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics. The term gynandromorph, from Greek "gyne" female and "andro" male, is mainly used in the field of Lepidopterology (butterfly/moth study) or entomology (all insects). These characteristics can be seen in butterflies, where both male and female characteristics can be seen physically because of sexual dimorphism. Cases of gynandromorphism have also been reported in crustaceans, especially lobsters, sometimes crabs and even in birds. A clear example in birds is the gynandromorphic zebra finch. These birds have lateralised brain structures in the face of a common steroid signal, providing strong evidence for a non-hormonal primary sex mechanism regulating brain differentiation.

A gynandromorph can have bilateral asymmetry, one side female and one side male,[6] or they can be mosaic, a case in which the two sexes aren't defined as clearly.

Bilateral gynandromorphy arises very early in development, typically when the organism has between 8 and 64 cells. Later the gynandromorph is mosaic.

The cause of this phenomenon is typically, but not always, an event in mitosis during early development. While the organism is only a few cells large, one of the dividing cells does not split its sex chromosomes typically. This leads to one of the two cells having sex chromosomes that cause male development and the other cell having chromosomes that cause female development. For example, an XY cell undergoing mitosis duplicates its chromosomes, becoming XXYY. Usually this cell would divide into two XY cells, but in rare occasions the cell may divide into an X cell and an XYY cell. If this happens early in development, then a large portion of the cells are X and a large portion are XYY. Since X and XYY dictate different sexes, the organism has tissue that is female and tissue that is male.

A developmental network theory of how gynandromorphs develop from a single cell based on internetwork links between parental allelic chromosomes in given in. The major types of gynandromorphs, bilateral, polar and oblique are computationally modeled. Many other possible gynandromorph combinations are computationally modeled, including predicted morphologies yet to be discovered. The article relates gynandromorph developmental control networks to how species may form. The models are based on a computational model of bilateral symmetry.

In his autobiography, Speak, Memory, the writer and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov describes a gynandromorph butterfly, male on one side, female on the other, that he caught as a youth on his family's Russian estate.
Extracted from Wikipedia