I have often bemoaned the fact that all the prestigious butterfly flagship species, Purple Emperors, (Apatura iris), Duke of Burgandy (Hamearis lucina) and Silver-spotted Skippers (Hesperia comma) are all located in the west of Sussex.
Though Purple Emperors are making their way north-eastwards (now being recorded in Wadhurst), they have yet to reach the Rother district, though one was recorded in Peasmarsh in 1980.
|Purple Emperor Distribution Map (MapMate)|
So it came as a great surprise when Stuart Cooper found a Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) butterfly in Beckley Woods on 12th March 2014. Butterflies and Moths in the Brede Valley
|Large Tortoiseshell Butterfly (c)Neil Hulme 2007|
Prior to Stuart’s sighting the previous records for Large Tortoiseshell butterflies in East Sussex were in 2011 when they were recorded in Falmer. Inspection of the distribution map below shows that this is a rare sighting indeed.
|Large Tortoiseshell Distribution Map (MapMate)|
Large Tortoiseshell butterflies were once generally distributed in England and Wales but are now thought to be extinct as permanent residents. However they are still recorded as migrants from the continent and may become temporarily resident in some areas such as the Isle of Wight.
This butterfly has the added bonus that it is often observed in early spring, so check those early Tortoiseshell sightings, you never know.
So, well done Stuart. Rother now has a flagship species as we patiently wait for the Purple Emperors to make their way south-eastwards.