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East Anglia Future 50

Have you seen your first butterfly of the year yet?

PUBLISHED: 09:13 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:11 23 February 2019

Red admiral    Picture: Liz Cutting

Red admiral Picture: Liz Cutting

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The recent spate of fine weather has resulted in a flurry of early sightings of butterflies across Suffolk.

A brimstone butterfly on rosebay  Picture: Julian DowdingA brimstone butterfly on rosebay Picture: Julian Dowding

Listings on the website of the Suffolk branch of the Butterfly Conservation charity show numerous sightings of brimstones, including at Thetford, Barnham and Knettishall Heath; peacocks at Worlington and Walberswick Common and small tortoiseshell butterflies at Reydon and Adastral Park.

But the most commonly-sighted butterfly so far seems to be the red admiral, which has been spotted at a range of locations from Woodbridge and West Stow to Chelmondiston and Dunwich Heath. Four red admirals were also recorded in Suffolk during January.

Suffolk butterfly recorder Bill Stone, says the early appearance of red admirals in such abundance is an ‘interesting’ development, suggesting that the distinctive red and velvet-black insect is taking up residence in the county in greater numbers rather than migrating to Central Europe in the autumn, which is its typical behaviour.

A peacock butterfly  Pic: Robert MckennaA peacock butterfly Pic: Robert Mckenna

READ MORE: Which butterfly species thrived or suffered in Suffolk during 2018 - a year of cold snaps and heatwaves?

Small tortoiseshell  Picture: Julie KempSmall tortoiseshell Picture: Julie Kemp

He said: “The small tortoiseshell, peacock and brimstone are all species which hibernate, and with the mild conditions, some have come out looking for any nectar they can find, which will be limited. Males will also be looking for opportunities to mate.

“Typically, as soon as temperatures drop red admirals return to Europe but with so many being seen, so early in the year it would suggest they are staying here over winter - not properly hibernating but remaining dormant - and coming out when they feel the sun.”

Mr Stone said this change in behaviour has most likely been caused by climate change.

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