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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Good News For The Duke

The Duke of Burgundy emerged in good numbers at Heyshott Escarpment this spring, with a peak day count of 104 adults. Of course this is only a small part of the story, and the fortunes of each species from year to year depend far more on the success (or otherwise) of the early stages, particularly the caterpillar, than they do on adult numbers; good flight seasons can easily be followed by population crashes.

I was therefore delighted to see the extent of larval feeding damage to the cowslips on this site when I visited on 12th July. Plants over the entire eastern flank of the reserve were peppered with the characteristic pattern left by mature caterpillars. A diligent search is often required on Duke of Burgundy sites, but on this occasion the evidence was simply everywhere I looked, almost to the very summit of the slope. The majority of larvae had probably pupated by the time of my visit, given the generally good conditions since May, and are now safely tucked up in their mossy beds. Things look very promising for the Heyshott Duke in 2015.

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