Butterflies & Moths of Stephenstown Pond
Nothing reminds us of warm sunny Summer's days as much as the sight of a graceful Butterfly. However, the loss of suitable food plants for caterpillars has had an enormous effect on the numbers of Butterflies seen throughout Ireland in recent years. The careful management of ruderal species, or weeds, atStephenstown Pond has helped to ensure that the Grassland and Woodland areas play their part in Butterfly conservation. It is hoped that visitors to the pond can enjoy the sight of numerous species of Butterflies for many years to come. Detailed below are just a few of the species that have been observed in the wooded and grassy areas, where there is suitable food and shelter.
The Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) is so named because of the string of false eyes on the underside of the wings. These spots confuse birds as to the position of the vulnerable body of the Ringlet. It flies in July and August and is found in wet grassy places. The butterfly stage has a life-span of two weeks, during which time it will rest in the grass or feed on the nectar of Bramble flowers.
A common butterfly in the dappled light of the woodland, the Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) is ideally camouflaged by its speckled wings. This butterfly shows a degree of territorial behaviour, and may be seen for days in the same place in the wood. When a second butterfly enters the territory, the two will engage in a harmless aerial combat.
The Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) is one of the most common butterflies in Ireland. It will be found around the Buddleia of the shrub beds, and the nettles and thistles of the grassland areas. This species hibernates and can often be found in garages and sheds through the Winter.
From May to October a visitor to Stephenstown Pond may come across the brilliantRed Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). It's name is derived from 'Admirable', due to its bright colours. A butterfly of hedgerows and woodland clearings, it will rest and sun itself with its wings outstretched. The numbers of Red Admirals seen each year fluctuates, as this species is chiefly an immigrant from southern Europe. It has a particular liking for the juice of rotting fruit and will often be seen round windfall fruit in orchards.
The Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) is a butterfly of the late Spring. From early May it can be found along rough pastures where its food plants grow. A wide variety of plants of the cabbage family feed the caterpillars of this species. The male butterfly patrols territories along the edge of the water. Only the male bears the distinctive orange wingtips that give it its name.
The popular 'Cabbage White' butterfly is well-known to most people. This common name covers two species of butterfly. The caterpillars of the Large White (Pieris brassicae) can be major pests destroying cabbage crops. The butterflies visit the pond area to feed on the nectar from the thistle flowers. The first butterflies emerge in April.
The second 'Cabbage White' is the Small White (Artogia rapae). This is by far the more common of the two. It also is a pest of cabbage crops. Like the Large White, this species visits the pond site to feed on the nectar of many wild flowers. It can appear as early as March.
A particular favourite among butterfly lovers is the large, handsomePeacock (Inachis io). This beautiful species, like the Small Tortoiseshell, hibernates and re-appears to mate in Spring. The next generation of butterflies emerges in July. The Peacock lays its eggs on stinging nettles, which are the food plants for the caterpillar stage. The butterfly will often be seen on Buddleia and Lilac.
The wild flowers of a grassy meadow attract the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) throughout the Summer months. Only the male is blue, the female being usually brown. Favoured food plants for the caterpillars include clover and any members of the pea family.
Of the many Moths which are resident at Stephenstown Pond, few are observed by the casual visitor, as these creatures fly by night. The Puss Moth (cerura vinula), Gargen Tiger (Arctia caja), and Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi) are but three of the species recorded at the site. Moths and their caterpillars feed on the many ruderal plants, trees, and flowers present at the pond.
One of the few species of moth to fly during the day, is the easily recognised Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae). It is popular during the months of July and August around meadows and woodland glades.