The clouded yellow butterfly

David Chapman / 17 September 2014 ( 24 September 2014 )

The beautiful clouded yellow butterfly is often on the wing during September and October, writes David Chapman.

The clouded yellow butterfly is a migrant species in the UK. Unable to survive the winter here, each spring it flies north from its breeding areas near the Mediterranean. In some years large numbers reach our shores, in others it can be completely absent.

The best place to look for clouded yellows is along the south coast of England, particularly in flower-rich meadows where they pause to feed and possibly lay eggs on clovers and trefoils, but they can be seen across the length and breadth of the UK in any habitat, including gardens.

Being a long distance migrant, the clouded yellow has a strong flight. When in flight we get a glimpse of the orange-yellow upperwing with its broad black margin but at rest it invariably closes its wings so we can see only its underside.  Underneath the clouded yellow is deep yellow with a pair of silvery spots in the centre of the hindwing and a dark spot in the centre of the forewing.

Although a migrant, the clouded yellow does breed in the UK during the summer. Early migrants arrive in May and June, their young combined with later migrants can boost numbers significantly during August and a further brood can be seen on the wing during September and October.

In Cornwall I have seen more clouded yellows this year than over the last couple so it is well worth looking out for these beautiful butterflies over the next few weeks wherever you live in Britain.

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