The Heat Is Online

Butterflies Are Hatching Two Months Early in U.K.

Butterflies make early appearance

The Independent (U.K.),  May 4, 2007

The hottest April on record has meant butterflies are hatching up to two months early.

The charity Butterfly Conservation said butterflies had been emerging an average of half a day earlier each year from the mid-Seventies until last year. But Richard Fox, surveys manager for the charity, said: "This year has blown all that away. We have had lots of species coming out two weeks earlier than last year, some a month or two months early. It's really a very dramatic situation."

The Lulworth Skipper was spotted in its native Dorset on 26 April this year, compared with first sightings of mid-June in previous years.

The Meadow Brown, right, Britain's most abundant native butterfly, was also reported on 30 April as far north as County Antrim.

"It's just astonishing. It's a dramatic jump and that's because we have had a very mild winter and an exceptionally hot April and the butterflies are responding to that," said Mr Fox. "The warmer the weather, the faster caterpillars can grow and develop and turn into butterflies."

Migrant butterflies, which would usually breed over the winter in hotter Mediterranean countries, have also started to survive the winter in the UK. "The most dramatic example is the Red Admiral," said Mr Fox. "20 or 30 years ago it would have appeared as a visitor in the summer but now they are surviving in huge numbers.

The National Trust has reported early signs of summer on the 8,800 hectares of coast and countryside it manages. Holly Blue butterflies have been spotted on the Purbeck Estate, in Dorset, and Grizzled Skipper butterflies have been seen at Fontmell Down, on the Dorset-Wiltshire border, with bumblebees spotted as early as February.

Last month was the hottest April since records began in 1659. The month's final figure of 11.2C (52.16F), as measured by the central England temperature (CET) which takes into account daytime and night-time readings, far surpassed the previous high of 10.6C (51.08F) in 1865.