Ringlets are thriving in damp weather

The ringlet, clearly showing its seven spots.
The ringlet, clearly showing its seven spots.
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So far this summer, something has been very conspicuous by its absence in the countryside and that is – butterflies.

Early on we had the usual appearance of small tortoiseshells, and peacocks, but since then very little. Even the vegetable patch has been spared the usual invasion of caterpillars from the “whites” and my brassicas are still almost pristine.

One species however, which is about in huge numbers just now is the ringlet. In one particular area of lush grassland on my local beat last week, I must have seen hundreds. They are medium sized and sooty brown all over, quite similar to the meadow brown, but the distinctive rings on the underside of the wings are a distinguishing feature. They are one of the few butterflies which are active even on dull days (which is just as well!) and are extremely difficult to photograph. Best to use a long lens if possible as it virtually impossible to get anywhere close to them without them taking flight.

Both sexes are almost identical with both having seven rings – two on each forewing and five on each hindwing, hence early entomologists calling it “Brown Seven Eyes”.

The preferred habitat is grassland where the grass is tall and lush. Here the female scatters her eggs on the ground, where the caterpillars emerge to feed on the grass.

The reason the ringlet seems to be doing well this year is due to the fact that they fare better when the spring and early summer is dominated by overcast and damp weather. In hot summers (remember them!) they tend to be scarce and can take two or three years for their numbers to recover. They have a very short flight season and have generally disappeared by the end of July so now is the time to look for them.

My garden at the moment is awash with tiny froglets. While weeding last week I kept disturbing them and boy can they move quickly. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of wildlife the construction of a tiny pond has attracted to my garden. Definitely money well spent.