Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Roads for the Ringlet

The Ringlet, Aphantopus hyperantus
As a wet, wet summer turns to autumn, one of the butterflies that remained flying despite of the rain will soon be gone until next year. The Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) is on the wing from mid-May to the beginning of September in Ireland, but is most populous from the start to the middle of July. It is one of the most common species in Ireland and its preference for damp areas and ability to continue flying in light rain (1), unlike most other butterflies, means that this summer it was the species I personally encountered most often. Its larval food plants are almost exclusively grasses, such as Cocksfoot and False Brome, and it is around such grasses that adults are most likely to be encountered (1).
The Ringlet, Aphantopus hyperantus
Unfortunately, changes in agricultural practices and development have lead to a destruction of the semi-natural grassland habitats where these plants thrive, putting pressure on populations of A. hyperatus. Not all such development is without some benefit, however. Roadside verges and intersections have become home to many of the plant species associated with these habitats (2). It has been shown in a study on Finnish roads that the correct management of these areas through practices such as mowing can maintain populations of A. hyperantus and provide an alternative habitat for the butterfly (2). Intensive mowing should be avoided and mowing in mid-summer should only take place if road safety dictates. Even then only partial mowing in mid-summer is preferable, with a total mowing in late summer.
  1. Nash et al., 2012. Ireland's Butterflies a Review pp. 205-207
  2. Valtonen and Saarinen, 2005. Annales Zoologici Fennici 42 pp. 545-556

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