The nature of things
Clouded yellow butterfly
AMILD spring followed by a warm and generally dry summer, as we have had so far, is a great help to butterflies, both the resident species and also migrants from oveseas. It always seems incredible that a creature so small and so delicate as a butterfly can find its way here from Mediterranean countries, but they do. Sometimes, with favourable passage and ideal conditions in their homelands, they appear here in great numbers.
Painted-lady butterflies and red admirals do this from time to time, but the latter, supplementing resident stock, are not as easily identified as ‘foreign visitors’. Another far less familiar visitor is the clouded yellow— noticeably bright in flight and warranting closer inspection when they land.
They’re cautious and you must approach by stealth to see the lemony-yellow wings that, when spread out, are a much deeper yellow— sometimes nearing orange—on the uppersides and margined with a thick band of black and a black spot near the centre of the forewing.
Females are further decorated with yellow spots along the black edging. These adults feed on the nectar of numerous summer flowers, including thistles, knapweeds, marjorams, ragworts, scabious, buddleja and lantana. Females seek out members of the pea family for egg laying, however, the caterpillars have a taste for alfalfa, red clover, numerous vetches and trefoils. KBH
Illustration by Bill Donohoe