June Butterflies and Moths

The Transparent Burnet moth occurs in the Burren in County Clare and Galway and on limestone habitats in Mayo and Limerick. The caterpillars feed on thyme in spring. The Transparent Burnet in the west of Ireland is subspecies sabulosa. This form has deeper red than is found on subspecies found in Britain. It flies in June and July, and large numbers can be seen feeding together on mats of flowering thyme. A good place to see it is Coolorta, County Clare, at R 34240 96588.
Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths are found in flower-rich, often damp grasslands where they can be abundant. It has been recorded more widely in recent years but is rated vulnerable on the moth red list. Like the Transparent Burnet, it overwinters as a caterpillar and pupates in May and June. The adult flies in June and July. The moth occurs here as subspecies insularis. It breeds on Meadow Vetchling, A good site for it is Pollardstown Fen, at N 76388 15994.
The Six-spot Burnet is similar in appearance to the previous species but has six spots, not five, is far more abundant and widespread, and is especially abundant along the coasts. It has a much longer flight period, flying throughout the summer months. It often occurs in stunning abundance on sand dunes around Ireland’s coastline where dozens can be seen on a single Common Ragwort. It breeds mainly on Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil. One good area for it is the Dingle peninsula, such as at Stradbally, at Q 58707 13406.
The Cinnabar is a striking moth, and unlike the previous three species, it is mainly nocturnal. It flies in May and June. Although it is striking when seen in flight in bright sunshine, it is probably better known for the larvae which feed socially on Common Ragwort and related plants, their black and yellow hoops making them unmistakable. This is the best distributed of the black and red moths, occurring along the coasts, on dry ground wherever the foodplants occur.
The Brown Silver-lines can be seen during bright sunshine where Bracken exists. Large abundance exists where beds of Bracken occur. It is nocturnal, but like the Cinnabar, it is often disturbed in daylight. This moth is well distributed in Ireland.
The Small Heath is a grassland butterfly that was once very common. Distribution maps from the Millenium Atlas show it to be mainly coastal but with many inland sites but these are scattered, but it may have been under-recorded at the time. There is a strong possibility that it has declined since, with greater intensification in farming eliminating it by changing the grassland habitat it needs. It is very vulnerable to fertilizer use, re-seeding of grassland, and over-grazing. It appears to like ungrazed grasslands but it will disappear from such areas when scrub becomes established and the grass is shaded. This butterfly is still well represented on coastal grasslands. A good place to see it is Mornington, County Meath at O 15737 75513. It flies in May, June, July and August, in one generation.
The Meadow Brown occurs throughout Ireland in semi-natural grassland where it even manages to survive fertilizer use, but it exists on such sites in lower numbers. It flies from June to August and occasionally later especially in the west of Ireland. It is exceptionally abundant in some grasslands even on farms.
The Cryptic Wood White is well established throughout Ireland excepting areas of hot, dry, exposed carboniferous limestone where it is replaced by the Wood White. The Cryptic Wood White flies mainly in May and June and breeds on Meadow Vetchling and Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil and presumably related plants. ‘Unkempt’ scrubby grasslands, well-vegetated field margins, wood edges, lanes, wilder gardens in rural areas, and cutover bogs vegetated with grassland vegetation are places to look for this dainty, extremely interesting little butterfly.
A Small Tortoiseshell on Rough Hawk-bit, Lullymore, Co. Kildare. This is flying now, especially around nettles where it is busy breeding to lay down a second generation that flies mainly in late August and throughout September when it visits gardens to feed on flowers before overwintering as an adult, often in your house. This attractive, swift-flying butterfly occurs throughout Ireland.