Guide: The butterflies and moths of high summer
Guest blogger: Stephen Moss is a naturalist, author and TV producer at the BBC Natural History Unit. He is currently working on Birds Britannia, a series on birds and the British for BBC Four.
With a month or so left until autumn arrives, it's time to check out some of our finest insects - the butterflies and moths of high summer. Too late to look for orange tips or elephant hawkmoths, but there's still plenty to see.
- Peacocks on buddleia: 'the butterfly bush', a brash purple import from the Himalayas, is a magnet for hungry insects, especially on warm, sunny days. Look for the stunning peacock, and if you can, check out its dark underwings, so different from the 'eyes' on the top. Small tortoisheshells also love buddleia, as do painted ladies, though sadly this year they are few and far between. And if you're really lucky, as I was recently, you may even see a hummingbird hawkmoth - which really does live up to its name as it buzzes between the blooms in search of nectar!
- The grassland browns: high summer sees the emergence of several of the 'browns' - not perhaps our most striking butterflies, but still beautiful in their own way. Meadow brown is the commonest - indeed the most widespread - UK butterfly; but also look for the smaller, orange and brown gatekeeper (once known as the hedge brown); and the marbled white (actually a brown!), all of which can be seen in sunny areas of rough grassland in many parts of lowland Britain. At the woodland edge look out for speckled wood and the darker ringlet, almost black on top, with its distinctive 'hula hoop' underwing pattern.
- Red admirals on fallen fruit: as autumn approaches, look out for red admirals feeding on the rotting fruit - they get so 'drunk' with the fermenting juices they let you get really close - a great opportunity to take photos.
- Moth night: if you want to see which moths live in your garden, just leave the bathroom window open and the light on! Alternatively try a sheet and a torch just after dusk. But beware - with 2,500 different species you may have your work cut out identifying them...
Buddleia: The butterfly bush
Keep an eye out in sunny areas of rough grassland
Me on a butterfly hunt
Editor's note: take part in Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count, a nationwide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment, which runs until 1st August 2010. And while you're at it why not take a snap of the little beauties. For inspiration, take a look at the blog post of our favourite butterfly photos from the BBC Nature Summerwatch Flickr group.