Insect Mapping In Cheshire Report - 1977

I'm following up the two notes I circulated a year ago (Butterflies & Moths) with a single note covering both groups and introducing the dragonflies, a new part to the project and one where there is plenty of scope and few experts. We still need more help with all three groups.

Butterflies - 1977:

As far as butterflies were concerned the weather in 1977 was certainly not up to the two previous years so that it was often more difficult to get records of the less plentiful species, particularly during visits of limited duration. However, many good records were made and the situation of a year ago is updated by the following notes. None of the six species recorded from over half the 10km squares has reached the 100% category but:

  • Orange-tip was very plentiful in late Spring, was found in SJ27 & SJ56 and is missing from only SJ29.
  • Painted Lady was very uncommon but there is a record for SJ76.
  • Red Admiral was also uncommon and is still not recorded in SJ27.
  • Small Heath, four new records, three from disused railway tracks in SJ27, 54 & 64, and one from a golf-course in 67.
  • Common Blue recorded in SJ78, an unconfirmed report from 99, but still definitely no record from 68.
  • Large Skipper, four new squares: SJ46, 64, 75 & 78, this still leaves seven gaps on the map viz: 27, 44, 55, 58, 67, 68 & 99.

Of the less common species there have been a gratifying number of new records although a few of these relate to 1976 sightings.

  • Brimstone, SJ46, 99 & 76 where larvae were quite numerous, the first recent record of this butterfly breeding in Cheshire.
  • Comma, recorded from six new squares 38, 46, 55, 57, 88 & 99, mostly single specimens, now widely distributed but very thinly spread.
  • Speckled Wood, two new squares 38 & 76, it may be extending its range from the stronghold in the South-West.
  • Gatekeeper, small numbers from SJ97, far from its known haunts.
  • White-letter Hairstreak, quite widely reported, three new squares SJ38, 45 & 87.
  • Purple Hairstreak, confirmation was obtained of the locality in SJ46 where larvae were found.
  • Holly Blue, three new records from SJ44, 46 & 67, but only odd specimens seen.
  • Dingy Skipper, only one additional square - SJ54.
  • Grizzled Skipper, a search of its last known locality in SJ37 was unsuccessful.
  • Small Skipper, two new records in SJ44 & 55, the latter well away from the railway track and apparently well established.

Finally, the three rather doubtful species, each of which has a different status:

  • Camberwell Beauty, there were indeed one or two survivors of the 1976 invasion in the Spring of 1977 but sadly no more.
  • Pearl-bordered Fritillary, confirmation that this butterfly still occurs in Cheshire is not yet forthcoming.
  • Marbled White, at least one specimen was captures and one or two others seen in 1976 but they must be assumed to be vagrants.

The Biological Records Centre (BRC) at Monk's Wood plan to publish their distribution maps of the butterflies in 1980 so we have one, or at the most two, more years to make sure that Cheshire is properly represented.

Moths - 1977:

A year ago I outlined a plan by which, with the facilities available, we should be able in reasonable time to get a good picture of the distribution of the macrolepidoptera in Cheshire, over 400 species being involved.

We already had nine 10km squares with over 200 species recorded in each, in 1977 we had a few new records from several of these squares but only raised from 106 to 109 the number of species recorded from all nine of them.

The major effort was directed towards getting many more squares past the 200 species total as shown below and of which detailed analysis seems fairly meaningless. No more squares reached the 200 mark but very good progress was made in many places and contact was established with several additional recorders. Most of the following squares are still being worked regularly and it doesn't seem too much to expect that many of them will reach the first target during 1978, the present score is shown in brackets.

  • SJ29 (127) - Ian Wallace now lives here and is trapping regularly.
  • SJ38 (188) - Chris Wilcox is trapping on a good site and this figure should go well past the 200 in 1978.
  • SJ44 (126) - Canon Rylands has had many good records but a technical break-down left a big gap in the best part of the year.
  • SJ45 (91) - More visits with the portable traps are needed to this square.
  • SJ46 (123) - Simon Harper and Stuart Cartwright have started trapping East of Chester and their first results are very promising.
  • SJ55 (72) - Mainly records from the Beeston Centre, unfortunately all visits have been in late July, we must vary this.
  • SJ57 (120) - More field work is needed at night in Delamere Forest. Joan Fairhurst has been conducting sorties from the Outdoor Education Centre which have boosted the figure.
  • SJ76 (150) - Tom Groves at Cranage and Jim Stonehouse at Holmes Chapel have produced many good records, another season should swell the total but Tom Groves is leaving the district.
  • NB: The Chester Zoo trap mentioned last year is actually in SJ47 and is adding to the records for that square (now about 220).

I have had one or two offers of further help but unfortunately have no more traps available at the present time.

There have been several really interesting captures in 1977 including Alder Kitten, Pale Pinion, Red Underwing, Waved Umber and Leopard. This confirms that the policy of aiming to get a really representative sample, albeit mainly very ordinary, does turn up a few unexpected things which would otherwise probably remain undetected.


A new organiser has been appointed for the National Odonata Mapping Scheme and he has issued his first Newsletter. This shows first, that progress is a long way behind that for the butterfly project and second, that recorders are few and far between. The first provisional maps appeared in 1974, four years after the first butterfly maps, and they showed a much lower level of recording. It is evident that recording in Cheshire has been particularly weak, even for the common species. Even by the end of 1976 no species had been reported for more than seven of our thirty 10km squares and this in a county inundated by ponds, meres, canals, rivers and peat bogs.

This can therefore, only be an appeal for help, we know we have one or two good species but we don't know the distribution in Cheshire of any of them. Identification of many species is fairly simple, some are quite unmistakable, and in doubtful cases the capture of a single specimen (preferably male) will soon resolve doubts. Present records suggest that not more than 18 species occur in Cheshire (less than half the National total) but so far no more than six have been reported in any one square.

Further details will be sent o anyone willing to observe and record, but at present records are so few and far between that almost any record at all is likely to be an addition to our knowledge as we have only 40 records out of a potential 540 (30 squares x 18 species).

The relevant literature is either out of print or rather costly (the newest volume on the Odonata costs £9.75). I am hoping to prepare a bibliography together with a few simple notes to enable the non-specialist to make reasonable records. Anyone interested please let me know but don't expect anything by return!

C.I. Rutherford                                                                                                                                                                              February 1978
Macclesfield Road
Alderley Edge
Tel.: 01625-583683












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