Tuesday 8 August 2023

Wood White Strikes Again.

 Back in the Spring Lisa and I wandered just over the Sussex border into Surrey to see the Wood White. This rare butterfly is only found in a small number of woodlands and is classed as one of the rarer butterflies in Britain. 

Although rarely seen in Sussex, mainly due to people going to the sites over the Surrey border where at the right time of year you are almost guaranteed to see them, there are a couple of sites where a small number still fly, although the main one is unfortunately in a woodland with no public access. However, after Lisa and I had seen some during the first brood in Surrey, she really wanted to see a Sussex individual, so we went to a woodland where I had seen some about 15 years ago. I was not hopeful, so was really pleased when we saw one just as we were about to give up.

Anyway, I wanted to see if there were any 2nd brood Wood White flying. The 2nd brood has more distinct markings than the first brood and it's been many years since I've seen the 2nd brood so I wasn't sure if I would get some. At the Surrey site it took much longer to find them, as the rides that I see them earlier in the year were more in shadow now, but when I got to the main path there were plenty of them flying about.

Female Wood White on Selfheal.

Female Wood White on Knapweed.

I saw a couple of pairs doing some courtship, a beautiful thing to watch as they flick their wings and waggle their antennae at each other with the male also uncurling the proboscis and touching the female's wings with it. Neither time did the courtship result in a coupling as one or the other decided it wasn't going to happen.

After spending a couple of hours watching the Wood Whites and lots of other species I decided to go over to the Sussex wood on the outside chance of seeing a Sussex 2nd brood Wood White. This time I didn't need to walk so far into the wood as Lisa and I had to in the spring as I found one pretty quickly.

Just after that finding I had the bizarre sighting of a mating pair flying across the ride and landing on Knapweed. I say bizarre as the male was just hanging underneath the female and was blowing about loosely in the breeze. On closer inspection I believe the male was either dead, or very close to it. On looking closely at a couple of the photos later it appears that the male had suffered severe damage to its abdomen, possibly the female flew through some tight foliage and the male got a bit squeezed. However it had happened though, it was causing a problem as it seems the male was locked on and the female couldn't get him off. I nearly tried to help but realised that I would probably damage her during the attempt, so I left them to it.

Female Wood White with dead male attached.

I carried on along the ride seeing another pair in the act of courtship. Briefly another male also joined in but this also resulted in all 3 of them going their separate ways pretty quickly.

Female (left) and male in the act of courtship.

Three is a crowd!

After getting to double figures I returned the same way adding 2 more to the sightings, although one of them may have been one that I saw on the way out. However, it was at least 11 seen and almost certainly 12. Near the end I saw another female that was alternating nectaring on Knapweed and Greater Horseshoe Vetch. The yellow of the vetch was very complimentary to the white of the butterfly, so I was pleased to get a couple of photos of her on that plant.

Female Wood White on Greater Horseshoe Vetch.

It was a fabulous few hours spent with the Wood Whites and many other species in the woodland.


No comments:

Post a Comment