Butterflies and moths are well studied in Jersey, the first records having been made over 150 years ago. Global climate change is thought to be the cause of a remarkable number of French and southernEuropean species spreading north and being recorded in the Channel Islands and the UK. Some are vagrants in ones and twos but others have become established here during the past decade or so creating an exciting new opportunity for lepidopterists in Jersey studying these beautiful insects.
Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua fimbriata
A rather prosaic name contrasts with the dramatic black and orange colouring of this large nocturnal moth. It is common in high summer but is not often seen during the day, although it might be inadvertently disturbed in a sheltered position where it will be aestivating – the summer equivalent of hibernating.
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui
This butterfly is unable to survive most winters in Britain and the Channel Islands and Jersey is dependent on migrants from the south for those seen in spring. In some years very few make it but in others – 2009, for example – they appeared in countless thousands. Some will breed in the island and provide a fine show in summer gardens.
Merveille du Jour Dichonia aprilina
Surprisingly, Merveille du Jour is the English name of this striking moth; in France it is called La Runique. Although a night flyer, it can often be seen in the daytime resting on the trunk of a lichen-covered tree, where its cryptic pattern and colour make it very difficult to detect.
Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lathonia
This common European species occasionally arrives in Jersey as a migrant. Some will breed and perhaps remain here for a few years. It is, however, quite a rare butterfly and is a treat for a lucky walker who comes across one basking on a warm path in the afternoon sun.
Large Emerald Geometra papilionaria
Most common during July this large and handsome species will only rarely be seen in daytime although a few specimens are regularly attracted to light-traps every year. Its preferred habitat is heathland and woodland, where it lays its eggs on birch and other deciduous trees.
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
Red Admirals are typical butterflies seen in gardens during the summer although they can be equally common along hedgerows and flowery meadows. The adults feed on nectar from colourful flowers, but they lay their eggs on nettles and other common weeds for the caterpillars to feed on.