• Name: Speckled wood | Pararge aegeria insula
  • Size: Speckled wood butterflies have a wingspan of 47-50 mm
  • Life span: Speckled wood butterflies live for no longer than three weeks.  
  • Diet: Speckled wood butterflies feed mainly on aphid honeydew; they also feed on flowers and fruits when aphid activity is low.
  • Reproduction: Speckled wood butterflies produce eggs.  Their caterpillars are green with a short, forked tail, and the chrysalis (pupa) is green or dark brown. The species is able to overwinter in two totally separated developmental stages, as pupae or as half-grown larvae.
  • When to see: Spring, Summer & Autumn (March to October)
  • Where to see: Sheltered woodland areas, gardens & hedgerows.  It seems to prefer slightly damp areas where there is tall grass/vegetation and some shade. i.e. Trenoweth, St Mary's | Rushy Bay, Bryher | Wingletang, St Agnes in Scilly.  
  • Conservation status:  Butterfly Conservation priority: Low | European status: Not threatened
  • Population Trend: Increasing since 1920's 
  • Threats:  Speckled wood numbers fell in the early 20th century, but have recovered in recent years.  They are still threatened by loss of suitable habitats.
  • Fun Fact: Unlike other native butterflies, the Speckled wood can hibernate as a caterpillar or as a chrysalis.

Description:  The Speckled Wood is a common and therefore familiar butterfly, especially in woodland areas as the name would suggest. Its appearance varies depending on its location; butterflies in the North are dark brown with white spots and those in the south are dark brown with more orange spots.

These location variations have given rise to a number of subspecies.  You may not know this but the Isles of Scilly Speckled Wood (P. a. insula) is only found in Scilly!

Female Speckled wood butterflies are monandrous; they typically only mate once within their lifetime. On the other hand, males are polygynous and typically mate multiple times.  In order to locate females, males will employ one of two strategies: territorial defense and patrolling.

These opposing strategies can lead to differences in appearance; most notable variations in the number of spots on their hindwings. Those with three spots are more likely to be patrolling males, while those with four spots are more likely to be defending males!  Additionally wing spots are also influence by environmental conditions. 

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With thanks to Barefoot Photographer & Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust for the Scilly Speckled wood image