The following article by Jesmond Harding appeared in The Irish Times on February 3rd 2018. The brief was to say what February means for seekers of butterflies in 150 words.
February is a winter month, and the year’s coldest, says Met Éireann. For butterfly-lovers, February continues the butterfly famine. Butterflies that over-winter as adults remain concealed in woodland, muted underwings blending with greys and browns of tree trunks or mimicking holly, bramble and ivy leaves, in the case of the Brimstone butterfly.
Spring is coming even if it seems a distant hope. The poet Edward Thomas suggested that, in February, spring must be dreamed up. To ideate spring the butterfly-lover seeks the white golf-ball eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly on dark leafless Common Blackthorn stems and nests of spiky hedgehog-like caterpillars of the Marsh Fritillary, huddling together in lucid February sun.
Occasionally, a warm day rouses a Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma or Brimstone butterfly. These bask on walls, tree trunks and tufts of dry grass litter, but soon return to their winter abodes. They’re not out of the woods yet.