Saturday, 31 March 2018

A Speckled Surprise!!

On a coolish Easter Saturday I decided the only things of interest were likely to be larva so I headed to my usual area for a bit of a hunt. A couple of Chiffchaff calling was a nice start. However, just around the corner I had a really big surprise as I disturbed a butterfly that flew off when I nearly trod on it. I could see it was around a Small Tortoiseshell size, but I was sure it wasn't that species. I managed to watch it come down through the binoculars way down the hill. I went down to the area it landed and once again disturbed it before I could do a proper id. Of course it flew back up the hill and this time when I caught up to where it landed I managed to see it was a very early Speckled Wood. I normally have to travel inland to see early Speckled Woods as the area I saw this one in is often a couple of weeks later for this species. It is also I'm sure the first time I have seen a March Speckled Wood. I did also see a couple of Small Tortoiseshell that managed to be warm enough to fly in a sheltered spot.

It was then onto the larva search where I managed to locate 40 Wall Brown larva, 1 Small Heath larva and 2 tiny Meadow Brown larva. These are quite distinctive as they are very hairy as well as having white tails. As I tried to clear a little grass the larva went into its defense mode briefly, before settling back down again. The Small Heath larva I had thought was a Speckled Wood larva until Pete Eeles corrected my id. The Small Heath is a hairless larva whilst the Speckled Wood is extremely similar but has hairs!!

Small Heath larva feeding.

Meadow Brown larva in defense mode. (Very frightening)!!

Meadow Brown larva. Note the hairy body and white tails.

Meadow Brown larva showing his mouth parts.


  1. Wow! Great to hear you have seen a Speckled Wood. Ours normally don't appear until around the 18th/19th/20th April and that is at a coastal site.
    I am amazed at your ability to find caterpillars. I would love to be able to do the same and will make an effort to find some this year.
    I still haven't seen a butterfly this year. It's five and a half months since I saw my last butterfly!