Butterfly Conservation - saving butterflies, moths and their habitats
Butterfly Conservation
saving butterflies, moths and their habitats
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The current butterfly list for North-east England includes thirty five species. These range from very widespread and common species such as Meadow Brown, and Large White to species with extremely restricted distributions such as the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary.

Of course the distribution of butterflies is subject to constant change and historical records (reviewed by Dunn and Parrack 1986) indicate that some species that are no longer present were once widespread in the region. Examples of such species include the Pearl Bordered fritillary which was well known in the region in the nineteenth century but now no longer occurs. Other species' fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the decades. The Comma, for example, was common in the nineteenth century but was then extinct in the region for much of the twentieth century before returning in the 1990s. Speckled Wood has become established in the coastal denes of County Durham during the present decade and Brown Argus and Gatekeeper may be examples of species that are poised to expand into the region.

Whilst the reasons behind these changes may not be known in detail a number of factors are clearly important in determining the fortunes of the region's butterflies. Habitat change has undoubtedly been the most important of these in the past with land drainage and 'improvement', afforestation, lack of management and redevelopment of brownfield sites all having significant consequences for butterflies and other invertebrates. Climate change may now be a new and important influence on butterfly distribution and may lie behind the northward spread of species such as Speckled Wood and Small Skipper, amongst others. The northerly position of the region, at the edge of the range of a number of species, may provide a particularly interesting opportunity to observe the impacts of climate change on butterfly distributions.

Monitoring the changing distributions of the region's butterflies and understanding the underlying causes are essential tasks if we are to protect and ensure the survival of our butterfly fauna. All records contribute to this and the North East Branch welcomes records of any species observed within the region. A recording form and instructions for submiting records are provided in the downloads section of the website.

The table below lists the butterflies that can be seen in North East England with brief comments on their status. Clicking on the english name for each species takes you to the relevant species account on the national Butterfly Conservation web-site.

Species Name Scientific Name UK BAP* Status NE England Status
Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris Not listed Resident, small population first established in Co Durham in 1980s has now spread throughout the county and well into Northumberland
Large Skipper Ochlodes venata Not listed Common resident
Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages Priority Species Uncommon resident, occurring particularly on former industrial sites. Northumberland BAP species, Tees Valley BAP species.
Clouded Yellow Colias croceus Not listed Rare migrant
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Not listed Rare migrant
Large White Pieris brassicae Not listed Very common resident
Small White Pieris rapae Not listed Very common resident
Green-veined White Pieris napi Not listed Very common resident
Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines Not listed Very common resident
Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi Not listed Local resident, moorland sites with bilberry
Purple Hairstreak Quercusia quercus Not listed Uncommon resident
White-letter Hairstreak Strymonidia w-album Priority Species Scarce resident
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas Not listed Resident
Brown Argus Plebeius agestis Not listed Rare, first recorded in the south of the region in 2006
Northern Brown Argus Aricia artaxerxes Priority Species Resident, strongholds on Durham coast and inland worked out magnesian limestone quarry sites
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus Not listed Common resident
Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus Not listed Uncommon resident
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta Not listed Common resident and migrant
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui Not listed Common migrant
Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae Not listed Common resident and migrant
Camberwell Beauty (no account available on national web-site) Nymphalis antiopa Not listed Very rare migrant occuring sporadically and very much less frequently than other migrants
Peacock Inachis io Not listed Common resident
Comma Polygonia c-album Not listed Resident
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Boloria selene Priority Species Scarce and declining resident. Durham BAP species
High Brown Fritillary Argynnis adippe Priority Species A single record in 2006 in Hamsterley Forest. Origin of this insect uncertain and possibly a deliberate release
Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja Not listed Resident and locally abundant. Stronghold on north Northumberland dunes, especially Holy Island
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria Not listed Recently established resident. From initial sightings, mainly in Durham's coastal denes, this species has spread over much of both counties mostly in the years since 2005.
Wall Brown Lasiommata megera Priority species (for research only) Resident
Marbled White Melanargia galathea Not listed Small colony introduced at Wingate quarry in 2000. Occasional records away from this site.
Grayling Hipparchia semele Priority species Resident, stronghold is on the coastal dunes of Northumberland, especially on Holy Island. Tees Valley BAP species.
Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus Not listed Recorded very infrequently in the region
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina Not listed Very Common resident
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus Not listed Common resident
Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus Priority species (for research only) Widespread but Declining resident
Large Heath Coenonympha tullia Priority species Scarce Resident, principally in the Border Mires of Northumberland
Species Name Scientific Name UK BAP Status NE England Status

BAP = Biodiversity Action Plan.

Click here for more information about the National BAP

Click here for information about the Northumberland BAP

Click here for information about the Durham BAP

Click here for information about the Tees Valley BAP

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