I’VE just started to see butterflies again in my Gloucestershire garden – such bringers of joy. However, if I lived further south, I might see red admirals flying on winter days, because these butterflies are now resident in warmer parts of Britain due to a warming climate. I didn’t realise this until I saw a handsome red admiral feeding on a snowdrop in a Somerset garden in mid-February. That butterfly was able to fly and feed as and when, because red admirals do not enter a torpid state of dormancy or hibernation.
Most of the red admirals I see in my own garden are migrants, not residents, and they often come in three waves. The first migration in April is thought to come from North Africa and southern Europe. In May and June, butterflies arrive from Spain and Portugal, and then a larger third invasion from central Europe arrives in August. Many will end their visit by migrating southwards in October, and this strong-flying butterfly is known to fly at night – an unusual trait shared by another migrant, the painted lady.
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