|"Fading Comma", resting amongst the Speedwell flowers, May 2013.|
The sun is finally shining on us here in the UK, or so it seems. The butterflies are making the most of the bright weather, with many of these bold and beautiful creatures flying around the woodlands and meadows of the countryside, or visiting gardens. Here is a shot from last Summer, of an old Comma butterfly, starting to look ragged but still beautifully coloured, resting on the grass amongst the Speedwell flowers. This shot was taken on the walk between Admiral's Park in Chelmsford and the village of Writtle.
Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) is an interesting flower. Some attribute the name "Speedwell" to its use as a traditional remedy, where it was supposed to cure a person quickly (see article here). It may not be enough to restore the Comma butterfly in the face of climate change however.
The Comma butterfly, and other darker insects like it, may soon be fading away as a result of climate change. A study published last month found that global warming is favouring lighter coloured insects over darker ones; Zeuss et al. looked at a wide range of butterfly and dragonfly species across Europe and found that their colouring affects their ability to cope with temperature. The current distribution of these insects is linked to their colouring, and as temperature increases their distribution will too. Darker insects, like the Comma, retreat northwards and lighter insects appear in their place. “Until now we could only watch the massive changes in the insect fauna during the last 20 years. Now we have an idea of what could be a strong cause of the changes," said Dirk Zeuss, lead author of the study. This will help to predict future changes to insect populations in Europe.