White Admiral (Limenitis camilla)
Cheshire local information
When to see: July
Where to see: Broad-leaved woodland
Caterpillar food plant: Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)
Cheshire status: Unknown in the county until 2004. This woodland butterfly is normally found in discrete colonies largely confined to areas south of a line between the Humber estuary and the Malvern Hills . In recent years it has been extending its range northwards. It is a single brooded insect that flies from late June to mid-August.
Prior to 2004 the last time that there was an addition to the Cheshire butterfly list was in July 1976 when the Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) was recorded at Dibbinsdale on the Wirral. Since that time a number of species have extended their range northwards in the country, although throughout this period the county list has remained at 45 species – 34 recorded since 1990, plus 11 species that formerly bred in the county or were rare migrants.
The prospect of adding anything further to the Cheshire list in 2004 was certainly not encouraging with unsettled, cool and wet conditions predominating for long periods. There were, however, brief spells of favourable conditions coupled with southerly winds, which were probably responsible for the first Cheshire sighting of a White Admiral on brambles at Woolstonwood (Crewe) on 24 June. The following month it was equally surprising when there was news of a second insect in a garden at Alsager on 22 July and 27 July. Interestingly, another White Admiral had been observed to the north-east of the county in the High Peak at Hadfield on the 20 July.
The White Admiral occurs widely in low densities across the southern counties of Britain with its nearest colonies to Cheshire being in the West Midlands. It is a butterfly that has been extending its range for many years, possibly as a result of favourable weather conditions or changes in woodland management. Maybe this spectacular butterfly could one day become established in Cheshire woodlands.