Great places to see: Woodland butterflies

Purple emperor - Keith Warmington

Sun-dappled glades and wildflower-rich rides offer the chance to encounter woodland butterflies. Some searching may be needed for these specialists, but the reward makes the effort worthwhile.

Grassy rides and sunny woodland edges are the haunt of some of the UK's more specialist butterfly species. Unlike their more commonly-encountered 'garden' cousins, many woodland butterflies have particular requirements that restrict them to specialist habitat.

Many Wildlife Trusts manage woodland reserves for the benefit of rare and threatened species such as white-letter hairstreak or marsh fritillary, often by encouraging the growth of favoured food plants such as elm, blackthorn or cow-wheat, all of which support their own woodland butterfly species.

Given their more discerning nature, the aspiring lepidopterist must go well-equipped and well-informed when seeking out these species. Binoculars are a must if canopy-dwelling purple emperors are to be seen, and a plant and tree ID guide could prove invaluable for identifying a likely caterpillar nursery.

Find out more about this Top UK Wildlife Experience here

Download our guide to 40 great nature reserves that offer a chance to see some of these beautiful butterflies.    


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