Butterflies June 26, 2014Farming with Wildlife, Norton Suffolkmike What made me stop was the constant orange and black movement over the flowers. Small tortoiseshell butterflies, too many to count, flew up as I walked past the hedge and settled again behind me like a Mexican wave. The hedge runs between two fields of oats and apart from an occasional Oak tree it is low, mostly brambles and has nettles and thistles growing along side. butterfly hedge Halls farm Standing still meant the butterflies focused on the flowers and on chasing each other. It also allowed me to look more closely. Moth-like Large Skipper butterflies were feeding on the lower bramble flowers, some of the Tortoiseshells turned out to be Commas, and Meadow Browns and Ringlets were low down in the long grass. Small Tortoiseshell feeding on Thistle at Halls farm My ears also tuned into the modulated hum of hundreds of bees big and small, hover flies, and the clicking rattle of dragonflies. This unkempt “weed” infested hedge at Halls Farm was alive with insects. Comma resting on old Cow parsley Later that day I was a couple of miles away at the Pakenham end of Little Haugh Farm where the soil is sandier. The mixed oak, ash and pine, woodland is cover for game birds and has a wide ride running through the middle. Like the hedge, the ride has lots of brambles, thistles and nettles, but it also has rampant honeysuckle climbing the trees at the ride edge. The flowering honeysuckle was why I came. White Admiral butterflies feed on honeysuckle flowers and lay their eggs on the leaves. The handsome White Admiral has spread to many Suffolk woods over the last ten years and watching their gliding flight is one of the highlights of summer. White admiral at Little Haugh As I was leaving Pakenham woods a spectacular orange Silver Washed fritillary swooped past me, another butterfly doing well in Suffolk. Siver-washed Fritillary This summer is proving to be as good as last year for butterflies. The early spring has brought them out early and often in big numbers. The many lightly managed hedges and field margins at Halls and Little Haugh farms are making the summer spectacular with both wild flowers and butterflies.