Speckled Wood Butterfly Pararge aegeria

The speckled wood butterfly is brown-coloured. Brown can seem so dull and rather boring.  Brown butterflies sound like they shouldn’t be when considering beautiful butterflies such as the swallowtail and purple emperor butterflies. However there are a family of butterflies called the satyridae or the ‘browns’ of which the speckled wood butterfly is a member.

All satyridae species only have four useful legs as the front pair have devolved into brush-like appendages – poor Mrs Brown left to scrub the floors.  Male speckled wood butterflies produce an intoxicating scent during mating from special scent scales called androconia – now that rather sounds like a brand of aftershave to me.

Most brown butterflies possess eye-spots on their wing margins to ward off predators. Perhaps these eye spots give the boring brown butterfly an understated charm and beauty not always present in the more showy species of Britain’s butterflies. They flash their wings when they sense a predator such as a bird or reptile is nearby.  The speckled wood butterfly is a shade-loving woodland specialist that keeps very well camouflaged. The beautiful brown hues and tones and pale yellow spots on their wings render them invisible in dark woodland with its dappled light.

Adult speckled wood butterflies mate twice a year. The first spring brood have larger yellow blotches than the second summer brood. This is because the woodland becomes darker and has more canopy cover later in the year than in the spring and the yellow patches vary accordingly.

 

How to tell a butterfly from a moth?

Firstly, all European butterflies and probably almost all others have clubbed-shaped tips on the end of their antennae. Moths have their fluffy-looking antennae.

Secondly moths rest with their wings folded down and flat but butterflies rest with their wings folded up above their backs.

As always I use Windsor and Newton Artist quality paints to ensure that I get the beautiful translucent colours of nature and a good quality watercolour paper such as Arches.  Sable watercolour brushes always give the best results since they are natural, form a find point and hold much paint.

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