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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: Some very scarce British butterflies of the early 20th Century

Today I am focusing on some rare butterflies as recorded in `British Butterflies` by W.S. Coleman ( 1905). The accompanying image, plate XV in this book, shows, in size order from the largest to the smallest,

  1. The Scarce Swallowtail.(Noon position.)
  2. Apollo. (Centre left.)
  3. Arran Brown (7pm position)
  4. Weaver`s Fritillary ( 11 a.m position)
  5. Purple-Edged Copper ( 3p.m position.)
  6. Tailed Blue ( 5p.m position)
  7. Tailed Blue, another view. ( 4p.m – ish position)

Coleman has the following to say: Scarce Swallow-Tail Papilio Podalirius

“There is no reasonable doubt that several individuals of this elegant butterfly were formerly taken in various parts of the country, but no captures have occurred for many years past. The caterpillar,also,was more than once found in the New Forest District,Hampshire. Generally a common insect on the Continent.”

The Apollo. Parinassius Apollo

“Although many years have gone by since any capture of this splendid butterfly has been authentically recorded in this country, we retain a figure of it in this work to remind us of what a collector of,say, a hundred years ago,might have a reasonable chance of taking – as there is little doubt it was a regular inhabitant , or visitant, in bygone years, and this remark would apply equally to the Scarce Swallowtail”
The Arran Brown Erebia Ligea

“Of this species, greatly resembling our E.Blandina, several specimens were formerly taken by some entomologists in the Isle of Arran, where,as also in other mountain districts, it may probably still exist;but its haunts have to be re-discovered by some enterprising butterfly-hunter. From Blandina, which it almost exactly resembles on the upper surface, it may be distinguished by the marking of the under side of the hind wing, on which is an irregular, broken band of pure white, and between this and the margin a row of three distinct black eye-spots.”

The Weaver`s Fritillary   Argynnis  Dia

“This rare species so closely resembles Euphrosyne and Selene in its upper surface it might readily be,and perhaps often is,passed by as one of those common insects. Underneath it is chiefly recognised by the beautiful blush of silvery purple that suffuses the centre of the hind wings, and more faintly tinges the tip of the upper wings. There are some small silver markings on the hind wings and a border of round silver dots, not lunules. The size of those I have seen is also smaller than the average specimens of Euphrosyne and Selene.

The name “Weaver`s” Fritillary, is due to the fact that its first recorded capture in this country was by Mr Richard Weaver at Sutton Park, near Tamworth. Since then it has been taken at Alderley in Cheshire;at Sutton Coldfield;Manchester;Worcester Park;Surrey;Hastings; but only in single examples. This insect is plentiful over the Continent, and found in woods and bushy places like our own common Fritillaries. The larva feeds on plants of the violet genus in April and May .”

The Purple-Edged Copper   Chrysophanus Chryseis

“As this species has been admitted by that very careful and accurate entomologist , Mr Stainton, into his “Manual”, I cannot refuse it a place here,though,from all the information I can gain,its only claim to the name of “British” rests on a tradition of it having been taken a long time ago in Ashdown Forest,Sussex;and since then by a dealer,in Epping Forest. It is a beautiful insect, coppery-red, bordered with changeable purple, and I should be glad to see it fairly established on our list of “ British Butterflies.”

Tailed Blue  Polyommatus Boeticus

“This interesting little butterfly has been long known as a southern insect with a very wide range of distribution, abounding in the south of Europe,and extending into India,Java etc. Then in 1859 it was found in Guernsey.and in August of the same year a specimen was actually captured on the Chalk Downs near Brighton. Since then,from time to time,other specimens have turned up on,or near,the south coast,and it is likely that many a one has escaped capture by its great resemblance to a Common Blue when on the wing,both in its colouring and in its habit of flitting about over open grassy spots. So that it would be well when collecting about the south coast to net all doubtful looking Blues,just for inspection…”

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