Butterflies in the Teign Gorge in Devon

See if you can spot a silver-washed fritillary

See if you can spot a silver-washed fritillary

August is one of the best months to see butterflies on the National Trust's Castle Drogo estate on the edge of Dartmoor.

You can see a range of species at this time of year. These include the Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Speckled Wood, Marbled White and the Painted Lady, which will have migrated in from the continent.

Then there's the pretty little Gatekeeper, the less common Grayling and Wall, but best of all is the handsome Silver-washed Fritillary.

The Silver-washed Fritillary

You may see this beautiful butterfly flying along the woodland edges and feeding on bramble nectar in any patch of sun next to paths and open areas.

It's one of the largest butterflies in the country and is a strong flier. It provides quite a spectacle when a number gather on a good feeding site. Looking like slivers of amber they dart and spiral at speed, shining in the rays of the sun.

The Silver-washed Fritillary is related to the Pearl-bordered and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, which can be seen flying on Piddledown Common in May and June.

The larvae of all these butterflies feed on violets. However unlike their smaller relatives, who need violets growing amongst bracken mulch on hot south-facing slopes, the Silver-washed Fritillary can make do with violets in dappled sunshine on woodland edges and rides. Because it is far less fussy, it is far more common.

Mating flights

If you're really lucky you may see their mating flight. The male has pheromone-scented scales on his underwing and will pursue his chosen mate, fly past above and shower her with his fragrant aphrodisiac. He then drops down in front of her, falls back and repeats the fly-past. This wonderful dance of love can sometimes be seen in sunlit open areas in the Teign valley. Good luck.

The best time to look for butterflies

Butterflies have many different life cycles and those that over-winter as adults such as the Brimstone can often be seen on warm sunny days in late winter. The flash of a sulphur yellow Brimstone is a welcome sign that spring is on the way. Up to 30 different species of butterfly can be seen between April and September on walks around Castle Drogo gardens and the wider estate in the Teign valley.