Sherkin Island Marine Station

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ButterfliesButterfliesButterflies

 © Sherkin Island Marine Station

Common Blue

Polyommatus icarus

A common species in areas of rough grassland, absent only from the most intensive farmland. This species can often be found in the evening, when adults congregate on grass-heads where they roost head-downwards. The Common Blue caterpillar feeds on leguminous plants - most commonly birdís-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Like many blue butterflies, the caterpillar is sometimes protected by ants, which feed on a sweet substance secreted by the caterpillar.

   

Small Heath

Coenonympha pamphilus

An uncommon butterfly on Sherkin, with only a small number recorded each year. It is a butterfly of dry grassland and is almost never seen in large numbers anywhere in its Irish range. The species strongly favours areas of short grass containing patches of low-growing flowers and shrubs. It is mainly restricted to coastal areas in Ireland, although this may reflect a lack of study of inland sites.

   

Peacock

Inachis io

A common lowland species throughout Ireland. The "eyes" on the wings are an example of mimicry and are thought to dissuade potential predators. Like many butterflies, the Peacockís foodplant is the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and large batches of eggs are laid on the underside of leaves. The caterpillars are gregarious in the early part of their development, separating shortly before they pupate, and they are well protected by large spines.

   

Marsh Fritillary

Euphydryas aurinia

One of the most rapidly declining species of butterfly in Europe, due to drainage of its wetland habitats. The Marsh Fritillary is very rare on Sherkin, reflecting its status elsewhere in the country. The foodplant is Devilís-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) upon which the female lays large batches (150+) of eggs, these hatch and the larvae remain until the plant is devoured, when there is a mass movement to a nearby plant. This continues until late August when they hibernate, to reappear in spring.

   

Clouded Yellow

Colias croceus

An uncommon migrant to Sherkin, this butterfly is seen every year on the southern coasts of Ireland and Great Britain. The Clouded Yellow breeds in Southern Europe and North Africa and large numbers migrate northwards each summer. However the caterpillars cannot survive the colder winters of Northern Europe and so it has not established itself in Ireland.

© Sherkin Island Marine Station 200