Insect Mapping In Cheshire Report - 1984

Butterflies - 1984:

Just as 1976 followed 1975 as two good butterfly years, so 1984 produced weather to match that in 1983 and both butterflies and those of us who look for them made the best of it.

Some attempt was made to record in the 'peripheral squares', in 1983 we had a lot of records from SJ69 and 79, this year attention was turned to the South-eastern borders of Cheshire with records in SJ74, 85 and 96. In only one of these five squares (SJ96) do we as yet have records of all the thirteen species already recorded from all the original 30 10km squares which make up the County, but this must only be a matter of time.

As usual, 'one thing leads to another' and a visit to SJ74 to record the common species revealed that the Purple Hairstreak was well established along a lane lined with oak and ash trees, although this butterfly seems to be generally regarded as a woodland species such an open habitat is not unusual and it may be much more widespread than our records show, it was also recorded in a similar habitat in SJ65 for the first time in 1984. Another notable event was the discovery of a strong colony of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries in SJ76, well to the East of all previous records.

There were four new square records for the Gatekeeper (SJ57, 74, 75 and 96) and eight for the Small Skipper (SJ46, 64, 65, 74, 77, 85, 86 and 98) confirming the previous impression that these two species are no longer confined to the South-west of the County.

Other new square records this year are:

  • Dingy Skipper - SJ99
  • Comma - SJ27
  • Small Heath - SJ96
  • Brimstone - SJ77
  • Speckled Wood - SJ74

In spite of excellent weather and the general abundance of butterflies the migrants made a very poor showing, the best being the Clouded Yellow which was seen at several sites in September, in particular in fair numbers at Sandbach (SJ75) and near Chester (SJ46). Red Admirals and Painted Ladies were very few and far between only one of the latter visiting my buddleia in September and it was October before I saw a Red Admiral in Cheshire.

Moths - 1984:

For various reasons I did not operate my garden trap regularly in 1984 and so have no overall comparison with earlier years but from many other operators I have gained the impression that while light trapping was often less effective than usual (cool clear nights following hot sunny days) there were nevertheless some very good catches and a number of very interesting records.

We must remember too that not all moth records come from light traps. In April I joined Bob Wynne in the Malpas district where we beat Sloe bushes which were in flower and obtained three larvae of the Sloe Pug, the first time this species has ever been recorded in Cheshire. Later in the year Richard Gabb came across a larva of the Goat Moth near Kingsley, our first record of this species for at least 25 years. On 4th August 1984 when sweeping up some dry leaves in my garage I disturbed a fine specimen of the Dotted Rustic, another species not recorded recently in Cheshire but one known to be spreading in Englad and two others were taken in Knutsford and Rostherne at about the same time. A fourth addition to our current list was the Crescent Striped taken at light at Neston by the Poole brothers.

After these four additions to our (post 1960) County List the most notable records in 1984 were of Red Underwings, at least eight were recorded from various parts of the County from Neston in the West to Alderley Edge in the East, it is evidently becoming quite well established.

Once again there were only a few records from the ten squares used to compile the ABCD lists but I do welcome a new recorder in SJ77, Alan Roberts at Knutsford who has added 20 species for that square. In SJ97, a 'moth-night' in West Bollington for the local Group of the Cheshire Conservation Trust (CCT) and a follow-up in the same garden a little later added 7 species to out records for that square (now on 289).

Most of the records came from the 'other twenty squares' which emphasises the need for a re-think of our grading system. In SJ27 the Poole Brothers have now joined Ted Abraham and between them they have added 86 species to the list which now totals 236 species. Another new recorder, Peter Atherton from Wrenbury, has recorded 143 species in his first two seasons in a square for which there were were only two species on the card two years ago !! Eric Rudge, working at Woolston Eyes brought his list for SJ68 up to 100 species and this on the basis of occasional visits with a single 'Heath Trap'; one of his records is the Wormwood Shark for which I can trace only one record in recent times and that was before 1974 in SJ38. Paul Griffiths has added another 8 species for SJ64 and Stephen Hind, Tony Broome and colleagues another 12 in SJ98.

Dragonflies - 1984:

During the summer Sympetrum striolatum was duly found in the 3 squares from which it was 'missing' a year ago, so we now have 4 species recorded in all 32 squares. No other species has been recorded in more than three quarters of them and it will be interesting to see if future work reveals any factors restricting the distribution of such species as Enallagma cyathigerum, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, and Aeshna cyanea.

At the other end of the scale, 1984 will be remembered as the year in which TWO species were added to the County list. At the end of June, Stephen Judd identified Coenagrion pulchellum at Hatchmere Lake (SJ57), it proved to be quite plentiful there and must have been overlooked as many of us have visited the site in the past. At the end of July a solitary male Orthetrum coerulescens was taken at Risley Moss (SJ69), whether it was a solitary wanderer or the forerunner of a future colony remains to be seen.

A species that appears to be spreading is Libellula quadrimaculata which is not likely to have been overlooked, there were three new records last year and we have four more in 1984. Calopteryx splendens has also been recorded in a number of new sites, several of these being on very small streams and ditches were previous experience would not lead us to expect it. We now have a total of 283 records for the 32 squares, an average of 8.75 which indicates remarkably good coverage when we remember that no square has more than 14.

It has become clear that while there is still something to be learned by continuing this project as it stands, there is much more to be gained from a more detailed study of the distribution and habitat preferences of these insects and I therefore welcomed the offer by Richard Gabb and Stephen Hind to take over the recording of Odonata in Cheshire and to expand the records on the basis of 'tetrads' (2km by 2km squares) with the further refinement of distinguishing between breeding habitats and casual visitors.

C.I. Rutherford - (01625-583683)                                                                                                                                                                 January 1985
Longridge, Macclesfield Road,
Alderley Edge
Cheshire, SK9 7BL












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