Wall Brown

(Lasiommata megera)


Habitat

This butterfly does like to bask on walls, though of course in open country there are natural sites where it can enjoy the sunshine equally well, resting with wings outspread. It is a sun-lover, unlike its relative the Speckled Wood, and is found on grassy banks, cliffs, open lanes and along low hedgerows. The Wall is common throughout most of England and Wales but rarer towards the north.

Food

The larvae are grass feeders, preferring coarse grasses such as cock's foot.  The butterfly feeds from almost any good source of nectar, from most of the Compositae, marjoram, bramble, buddleia and others.

Life Cycle

There are two broods, the first butterflies being out in May and June.  Usually there is a gap before the second brood is seen at the end of July and into August, but in hot years pupae may produce the first butterflies in April, a second brood in June and a third in September, in which case the broods usually overlap.  In warmer climates the Wall Brown is continuously brooded, with a slight slowing down of the larval stage in winter.  Here the larval stage goes into hibernation though, like aegeria, it will sometimes take a little food if the weather turns warm.

Notes

From the flight and colouration of this butterfly it might be one of the Fritillaries, but when it rests it is clearly a Satyrid and not easily confused.  The female has broader areas of ochre on the forewing and the wings are more rounded than the male's.  Male butterflies are a darker ochre, almost a light chestnut, broken by a diagonal dark band of scent scales on the forewing.  The eggs are laid on grasses singly or occasionally in small groups.  The caterpillar is a little like that of the Speckled Wood, green and tapered at each end, but it has stronger and more contrasting stripes along the length of the body.  The chrysalis is suspended by the tail from a stem in some hidden place.  It is longer than that of the Speckled Wood and nearly black.  The butterflies are often territorial, individual butterflies keeping to quite a small area which they patrol with some pugnacity.

Sometimes a butterfly will fly up in front of you when walking along a path and settle some distance further on.  As you approach, up it comes again and settles further ahead, accompanying you quite a distance without diverting to one side or the other.