Explore species profiles below or click here to browse associated articles.

Red Admiral
As ever with butterfly spotting the likelihood of finding a good diversity and number on the wing depends on the weather on the day, and the weather in preceeding weeks, months and years. There is plenty of protected wide open flower filled space on The Lizard, so given the right conditions numbers of some species should be good.

Earlier in the year, researchers from the University of Exeter’s Environmental & Sustainability Institute (ESI) conducted surveys and research on the Marsh Fritillary butterfly on the Lizard (see  http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/butterflies-moths/513-butterfly-surveys-in-march-your-help-pleas).
The larvae were found on 5 sites, but because this butterfly is so rare nationally, the Lizard populations are now very important at both the county and country level. However, they were not found on one small site which they were known to frequent until very recently.

A small cluster of larvae in early springA small cluster of larvae in early spring. ©Chloe Lumsden

My main interest is birding; however I enjoy all the diverse flora and fauna that can be found on the Lizard. Summer is a relatively quiet time for bird rarities, but there is still plenty to see on the wing. This article highlights some of the fantastic butterflies that can be found on the Lizard. I am not a butterfly expert! All the pictures were taken at Windmill Farm National Nature Reserve; however, most of the species can be found all over the Lizard.

The first species contradicts my last statement as it is only found in a couple of places on the Lizard – Windmill Farm being one of them. This is the nationally rare and beautiful Marsh Fritillary, which can be seen in June and early July  they always lay their eggs on Devil’s-bit Scabious.


Marsh Fritillary 

Marsh Fritillary

Clouded Yellow 

Clouded Yellow

A larval web in March 2016As spring came around this year, researchers from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute were once again busy conducting surveys across the Lizard for one of our nationally rare butterflies, the marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia. The mission? To better understand the habitat requirements of this declining butterfly, with the ultimate goal of developing meaningful management practices to conserve these important populations for the future.

In March the black caterpillars can be seen basking and feeding together within silken webs near to their hostplant Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis. Extensive surveys for these conspicuous webs revealed populations at 8 sites (see here for last year’s survey). Although this is good news, populations can fluctuate largely from year to year and remain very sensitive to changes in climate and habitat. So we must obtain a sound understanding of their habitat requirements in order to give them the best possible chance...

Catrpillars and their web on devils-bit scabiousBelieve it or not, right now is the best time to survey the population health of one of our most notable butterflies – the marsh fritillary. Admittedly, surveyors will not be looking for butterflies on the wing but they will be taking advantage of the occasional sunny but not too warm day to spot basking caterpillars.
This spring, ecologists from the Environmental and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at Exeter University are undertaking a survey of Marsh fritillary butterfly colonies on The Lizard. This attractive butterfly is one of the most rapidly declining butterfly species in Europe, principally because the damp meadow habitats it frequents have been increasingly drained for agriculture. Scrub encroachment through lack of management and climate change are also factors in its recent demise.

Marsh Fritillary caterpillars - copyright  Pete Eeles Marsh Fritillary Report Card

Over the last two years, researchers based at the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter have been undertaking surveys and research on the Marsh fritillary on the Lizard. Our main conclusions are that this butterfly remains extremely localised (occurs on only a handful of sites) and vulnerable to extinction. We have recently produced a report card which summarises our knowledge about the Marsh fritillary, and how best to manage the Lizard landscape for its continued survival. This document is uploaded onto the website, so please take time to read it and hopefully it will inspire you to go out and look for the autumn webs, which while are not as attractive as the adult butterflies are interesting nonetheless.