Saturday, 22 November 2014
Latest Issue

features

January 2009

What happens to butterflies and moths in winter

Butterflies and moths are usually associated with warm summer days and balmy nights. It is easy to forget about these delicate and beautiful creatures in the cold and frosty days of winter. Yet every spring moths and butterflies appear as if by magic onc

Moths and butterflies have a number of strategies for surviving the winter cold. Some species lay eggs in late summer or autumn which do not hatch until the following spring when food is plentiful. Many moths spend the winter as caterpillars which hibernate amongst vegetation, although some do emerge to feed during mild spells. Other species like the hawk-moths spend the winter as pupae, tucked up in warm cocoons underground where they are sheltered from the cold.

A few species hibernate as adults if they can find a warm sheltered spot. Many of us have been surprised by the sight of a Small Tortoiseshell or Red Admiral butterfly in the house or garage that has been woken from its winter slumbers. The Herald moth is another species which often hibernates, appearing during the first warm spell in spring.

Yet few people realise that some hardy moths are active as adults right through the winter months. One of these, the aptly named December moth, spends all its brief adult life in mid winter, flying through November and December. This attractive moth is found mainly in broadleaved woodland and lays its eggs on trees such as oak, birch and hawthorn. The eggs hatch in April, which is perfect timing for the caterpillars to feed on the new growth of leaves.

The Winter Moth is another appropriately-named species which flies from November to February. This rather drab moth can be found in woods, parks and gardens of all types where the caterpillars feed on a wide variety of trees in the spring. The caterpillars can strip leaves very quickly, and in some places it is regarded as a pest, particularly in orchards. In common with a few other moth species only the male moths are able to fly. The flightless females have very tiny wing stumps and rely on the males finding them for mating. Like all moths, the females produce powerful pheromones which can attract male moths from some distance. The males can even fly on very cold nights as their bodies contain a type of anti-freeze. So watch out for them fluttering in the car headlights if you are driving down a wooded lane on a cold winter night!

Your Comments

  • Ulster Rugby joins forces with Anti-Bullying Week

    As part of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week 2014 (Monday 17 to Friday 21 November 2014) individuals and groups spanning all ages have been making their personal pledges to help tackle bullying. More..

  • My Story

    As McDonald's celebrates its 40th birthday in the UK this November, Ni4kids speaks to County Antrim mum Karen Gunning about the impact that the Ronald McDonald House Charities help has had on her family. More..

  • Get your glow on

    Christmas party season is fast approaching and we nominate this star fake tan buy for your bathroom. More..

  • What we most want to find in our Christmas stocking!

    A perfect gift or indulgent treat this Christmas SKINICIAN’S Luxury Anti-ageing gift set (RRP £34.95) has been designed to target visible signs of ageing, leaving skin energised and re-activated with a radiant, youthful appearance. More..

  • A Feast of Thanks

    While we usually don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Northern Ireland; there are some incredible dishes that are well worth pinching to spice up your own festive feast. More..

  • An Open Door

    Schools across the country are getting ready to throw open their doors and welcome in prospective new pupils and parents. Read on to find out what’s on offer. More..


Download boredom busting activity sheets here

Web design and development by Creative Online Media, Belfast. Copyright 2007-2008. All rights reserved.

This page is valid XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS