Our City Butterflies:
Between 2010 – Present, Brighton and Hove has recorded 38 different butterfly species, this includes 35 resident species and 3 migrant species, most notably the Long-tailed Blue butterfly during 2013 and 2015.
There are some butterfly species that are so widespread across Brighton and Hove in their distribution that they should be considered representative species of Brighton and Hove’s identity. Below, three such species are shown with a description of why they are important to Brighton and Hove’s identity.
The White-letter Hairstreak is just as integral to Brighton and Hove’s identity as the Royal Pavilion or Brighton Palace Pier, our city holds the status of having the National Elm Collection, together with the butterfly this forms an unbreakable bond as the White-letter Hairstreak only breeds and lays their eggs on Elm trees, the caterpillars later feed on the leaves. Most roadsides, parks and woodland contains Elm trees, this soon accumulates to a figure of around 50,000 Elm trees. This includes a large range of Elm species, varieties and cultivars, including disease-resistant Elm cultivars.
Brighton and Hove City Council Arboriculturists are the guardians of our National Elm Collection, the Elm trees in our city have been managed against the spread of Dutch Elm Disease since the 1970s. Dutch Elm Disease is a fungus which is primarily carried from tree to tree by beetles which feed on the bark of Elm, once infected signs of brown, yellow or dried out leaves may spread across the canopy, as water vessels in the trees begin to break down, the fungus spreads and the tree dies. The national effect of Dutch Elm Disease has caused the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly to decline.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s active management in removing diseased trees, in combination with the public reporting signs of infection within the city has been an integral part in maintaining such a large population of both Elm trees and the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly. Dutch Elm Disease does continue to occur in our city, please visit the following web page for more information and where you can report Dutch Elm Disease to Brighton and Hove City Council, here: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/leisure-and-libraries/parks-and-green-spaces/elm-disease
Ecology students at the University of Sussex have looked into the pruning of Elm and the results it may have on White-letter Hairstreak populations, with support and assistance by Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch. Jamie Burston, volunteer White-letter Hairstreak Species Champion for Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch and Brighton resident is looking at the relationship and effects caused between the life-cycle of Elm and the life-cycle of the White-letter Hairstreak to better understand how the caterpillars adapt in behaviour and appearance given different circumstances to aid in conservation. Jamie’s initial work can be found here: http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/species/white-letter-hairstreak.php
The Small Blue, the UK’s smallest resident species, has seen a great increase in distribution and population within Brighton and Hove due to the conservation work of Big Nature, Brighton and Hove City Council and Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch. Much to the success of creating wild-flower chalk areas and Butterfly Banks across Brighton and Hove where Kidney Vetch, the sole plant they lay their eggs on has flourished. Small Blues also occurs on some of our local and national nature reserves across Brighton and Hove, notably around the greenbelt, on and around the South Downs National Park. This spring (2017) good numbers of Small Blue are also being reported to Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch on the cities chalk Butterfly Banks, over at Roedean (between Roedean Road and Roedean Way), Whitehawk (northern end of Swanborough Drive) and at Hollingdean (Hollingdean Park, along the boundary of Lower Roedale Allotments).
The Marbled White occurs where long grass grows, where they lay their eggs, as a result it has an extensive distribution across Brighton and Hove. In particularly good years the butterfly might venture from grass meadows and our downland reserves onto uncut grassy roadside verges and even visit gardens around the outskirts of Brighton and Hove.
Best observed towards the evening as the butterfly calms down from the heat of the day, making them most approachable towards sunset as the sun begins to recede from our sites, they rest with wings wide open to catch the remaining warmth of the sun. Then once the sun slips away, they close their wings to reveal their more delicately marked underwings at rest as they roost overnight, settled on grass stems/heads, typically at the base of slopes. A high summer butterfly seen throughout July. Smaller pockets of grassland may support numbers in the low tens whilst large field systems and downland grassland support numbers in the hundreds. Early conservation work helped the butterfly keep a foothold within the cities boundary, primarily around the A27, thus allowing the butterfly to build in numbers and spread to it’s current distribution as more suitable habitat became available.
Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch has produced a web page covering all Sussex butterfly species. By clicking on each species name, it produces a drop box where the butterfly is illustrated with photos, showing both open and closed wings, especially helpful with species of a near similar appearance.
Additionally each species has a written account covering their flight period and the range of habitats where they might be seen, see link here: http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/species/
A link to further reading sends you to the National Butterfly Conservation website where there is a more general account of butterfly species.
The value of reporting butterfly and moth sightings and where to send them:
Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch uses and gets feed data of butterfly and moth sightings reported from within Sussex. This information is then shared with the National Butterfly Conservation head office, which provides them with vital data on populations and distribution trends on a Sussex and national scale. This data is used to inform targeted conservation to support species which need help.
There are two ways in which you can report and send in your butterfly and moth sightings, all of which gets feed to Butterfly Conservation. The most useful method of submitting your butterfly and moth sightings is by entering them directly into the iRecord database, where you can also attach your photos.
iRecord is now available as an app, it’s never been easier to enter your sightings, visit the iRecord website for more information and instruction for entering your sightings here: https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/
All sightings entered into iRecord are shared with the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, this data can then be access by Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch. You can visit the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre website here: http://sxbrc.org.uk/
You can also share your sightings to the Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch, Sightings Page. The page is a great resource for seeing what species are being seeing within Sussex. They are updated daily, so you can see as and when butterfly species begin to emerge. The Butterfly Conservation – Sussex Branch, Sightings Page is a more casual source of sharing your butterfly and moth sightings and photos. To summit your sightings enter them here: http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/upload/
They will then appear later on the Sightings page, which you can view by visiting here: http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/sightings/
Butterfly Conservation – Sussex branch, our local branch of the national charity welcomes new members. To find out how membership makes a difference to our butterfly and moth species, please see the following page: http://butterfly-conservation.org/90/join.html and should you wish to make a donation visit: http://butterfly-conservation.org/89/donate.html
About the author of these exclusive reports:
Jamie Burston is a local resident and Brighton based artist. Wildlife is one of his key subjects and appropriately Jamie’s most recent series of work covers the subject of butterflies. His highly detailed illustrations are based on photographs that he has taken of local observations of the butterflies he encounters in Brighton and Hove and wider Sussex and thus forming the reference of his drawings and paintings. His work endeavours to ask the viewer to look closer, past colour to pick out the character and charm of the subject whilst trying to enhance the form, texture and patterning to provide a different view point.
Visit Jamie’s online shop where you can view his work and contact details. When you purchase a piece of his work, a card giving the exact location via a grid reference of where the individual subject was seen is also included.
Visit Jamie’s shop here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/JamieBurstonArt
Thank you to the following people for providing information towards the article: Jamie Burston, Paul Gorringe, Peter Whitcomb, Geoff Stevens, Tessa Pawsey, Dan Danahar, Annabeth Horsley, Bob Foreman and Neil Hulme.
By popular request, the previous 7 articles can be located by clicking the links below:
Butterflies of Brighton & Hove – Part 2:
Butterflies of Brighton & Hove – Part 3:
Butterflies of Brighton & Hove – Part 4:
Butterflies of Brighton & Hove – Part 5:
Butterflies of Brighton & Hove – Part 6:
Butterflies of Brighton & Hove – Part 7:
Butterflies of Brighton & Hove – Part 8: