Butterflies and moths

Dumfries and Galloway has a rich variety of butterflies, with 32 species recorded in the last ten years. The region supports a number of species that occur towards the northern limit of their range (e.g. Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus) and others near their southern limit (e.g. Scotch Argus Erebia aethiops). As well as residents, butterfly numbers are supplemented each summer by migrants, such as Painted Lady Vanessa cardui, Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta and Clouded Yellow Colias croceus, though numbers can vary markedy from year to year. In recent years species such as Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola, Comma Polygonia c-album and Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria have begun to colonise the region and reports of sightings to monitor their spread would be welcomed.

Four species are recognised as priority species in the Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP). The Northern Brown Argus Aricia artaxerxes is a predominantly coastal species, its distribution closely matching that of its larval foodplant Common Rock-rose Helionthemum nummularium. Both Pearl-bordered Fritillary Boloria euphrosyne and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Boloria selene have suffered dramatic national declines, most likely due to changes in woodland and grassland management. The former has declined in southwest Scotland, and remains scarce with colonies mainly in eastern Kirkcudbrightshire. In contrast, Dumfries and Galloway remains a stronghold for the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary whose population remains widespread and appears more stable. The Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages has declined dramatically over recent decades, making it the rarest butterfly in South West Scotland.

To the lay person, moths are often thought of as drab, brown insects that fly at night and eat clothes. Whilst it is true that some are small and brown, many others are as beautiful as any butterfly, and more species of moth are active during the daytime than butterflies. Dumfries and Galloway is home to many of the 2500 species of macro- and micro-moths found in the UK. Common species include the Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba, Common Carpet Epirrhoe alternate and July Highflyer Hydriomena furcata, as well as stunning examples, such as the Elephant Hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor.

Locally, ten moths are highlighted as priorities in the LBAP. The Forester Adscita statices is of conservation concern in the UK and remains vulnerable to habitat degradation and destruction. Locally it favours damp grassland with Sharp-flowered Rush Juncus acutiflorus and Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi where its larvae feed on Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa. Although this habitat appears quite widespread, the Forester’s distribution remains very localised. The Broad-bordered White Underwing Anarta melanopa is an upland species that has been recorded in Galloway and the Southern Uplands and is thought to have undergone a local decline. The Bilberry Pug Pasiphila debiliata occurs in its only current Scottish site at Kirkconnell Flow NNR, near Dumfries.

For more information:

Butterflies of South West Scotland by Keith Futter et al. 2006. ISBN1902831950

Field Guide to Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Paul Waring. 2003. ISBN 0953139921

The Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles by Bernard Skinner. 1988. ISBN 0670879789

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