The meadow brown is a common butterfly. It is dark brown in colour with an eye-spot on each forewing. Females can be distinguished from males by the presence of an orange colouration on the forewings. In both sexes, the underside of the wings are paler in colour (2). The caterpillar is yellowish-green with a dark green underside, and is covered in long white hairs. A yellowish-white line passes along each side and the tail tapers into two whitish projections (3).
The meadow brown is a univoltine species, which means that one generation is produced a year (3). The adults are on the wing from early June to late October, and females lay eggs either on blades of grass or in vegetation close to grasses (4). The eggs hatch after around three weeks and the caterpillars feed throughout the day, retreating down into the grasses in spells of cold weather (3). They overwinter among the grass stems and feed at night the following spring (4). The pupae are attached to grass stems during May, and adult butterflies emerge in around a month, starting the whole cycle once more (3).
Widespread and common in Britain but absent from Shetland. It becomes more of a coastal species in the north of its range (4). Elsewhere, this butterfly is found throughout Europe reaching east to Asia Minor and Iran (4).
As the common name suggests, this butterfly was once closely associated with meadows. It is also found in downland, woodland rides, heaths, road verges and waste ground and is also found in urban habitats including gardens, parks and cemeteries (3)(4).
Although this species is not threatened at present, populations have decreased in areas where agricultural intensification has taken place. Furthermore, the extent of hay meadows in Britain has declined massively, and the species cannot survive in areas where excessive grazing occurs (4).
For more on invertebrates, their conservation and details of how to get involved see Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust: http://www.buglife.org.uk
For more on butterflies see: The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland by: Asher, J., Warren, F., Fox, R. Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G. & Jeffcoate, S. Published by Oxford University Press.
Stage in an insect’s development when huge changes occur, which reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
The footpaths and access tracks which run through and divide blocks of trees in woodland. Many rides contain a mixture of rich flora and structure, and provide different habitat conditions for a range of wildlife.
(also known as ‘single brooded’) insect life cycle that takes 12 months to be complete, and involves a single generation. The egg, larva, pupa or adult over winters as a dormant stage.
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