Thursday, July 02, 2015

Meadow Brown

Maniola.jurtina. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Female by Böhringer Friedrich. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 at via Wikimedia Commons
Third in the run of lepidoptera (scale wing) is the Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina. This was present in abundance on my Breeding Bird Survey final section on Tuesday and was the dominant butterfly on the Downs walk on Wednesday. The males are plainer brown with an almost uniform upper wing with tiny dark eye-spots. 
The species is univoltine (a new word for me) meaning that there is just one brood per year (cf. most blues which are bivoltine in the south). Although it remains the commonest butterfly in the UK, numbers have declined massively over the last century. This, it will come as no surprise, is largely due to changes in agricultural practice. They require mixed species grass meadows which are cut late, ideally with flower-filled hedges nearby.
Courtship is a peculiar affair: after a short dance the males envelop the females with a heavy scent (discernible to some humans as 'old cigar box', 'musty hay', or 'dirty socks'). She then descends to a suitable perch and mating commences. 
Sounds a bit dodgy to me! 
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