Insect insights

Thursday 23 January 2014, 09:46

Kate Lewthwaite Kate Lewthwaite Phenology expert

We’ve already received sightings of ladybirds and butterflies. We want people to record more sightings of butterflies, such as peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell over the coming weeks and months, as well as invertebrates like ladybirds, queen wasps and bumblebees.

People may be surprised to see such spring-like activity in January but Woodland Trust data confirms that it has become increasingly common over the last decade or so, and is consistent with a long-term trend that suggests spring is advancing earlier.

Although the average date for the first sighting of ladybirds tends to be the middle of March, it is becoming more commonplace to see them as early as December. Likewise red admirals are now regularly spotted across the south of England throughout winter.

The insects most commonly seen at this time of year are those species that survive the winter as adults in sheltered nooks and crannies. It is a rise in temperature that encourages them to resume activity, meaning they can be vulnerable to unseasonal warm spells. The mild temperature enourages them to use up precious energy reserves when there is little hope of finding nectar sources to replenish them.

What this highlights is the importance of having diverse, inter-connected habitats that allow species to react to any changes in climate and adjust accordingly. With habitats coming under ever greater threat and fragmentation the pressure on our native flora and fauna will only increase.

The Trust recently launched a campaign urging Government to increase protection for ancient woodland in England and safeguard its future. By recording activity of species found in ancient woodland and other habitats, thousands of people have enabled Nature’s Calendar to become the leading survey into how climate change is affecting UK plants and wildlife.

Anyone can get involved and recording is simple and we need your help. We have plenty of information on how to get involved. Happy nature recording!


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    Comment number 1.

    We have butterfiles that come in to the house and hibernate through the winter. We also had some that survived the winter in the woodshed a couple of years ago even though the temperature was down to -24C.

    Mike S
    Alford, Aberdeenshire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    We have Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies hibernating in our stables and I saw a ladybird in the woods on Saturday too. Although I like the posts about unusual sightings, can we have more posts about typical winter wildlife? Overwintering waterfowl, fungi and mosses, bird and mammal survival and hibernation facts? I feel the Winterwatch blog is missing these elements and could be providing fascinating information like the sorts of things Chris and the presenters are full of, but often don't have enough time to say everything!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I saw my first Ladybird of the year on 19.01.14. I live in Cambridgeshire area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I have been growing hellebores (both wild and cultivated) and for years have been pleased to see lots of bumblebees taking advantage in mild spells in winter. This year they have been in bloom for weeks but not one visitor. My area has heavy clay and is quite water-logged. I suspect the very wet winter is killing them.


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