I must have missed any spring influx of clouded yellow butterflies back around May time, but it seems there was such an incidence, however small. My reasoning is based on seeing three of these lovely insects on Saturday last, winging their way purposefully westwards over grassland adjoining the Tarka Trail downriver from Barnstaple. These, two females and a male, would be part of the single brood of autumn butterflies from eggs laid by spring migrants soon after their arrival here.
Where these were heading is anybody's guess, to the coast to attempt to return to southern Europe probably, from whence came their parents. For sure they will be unable to survive the damp cold of November and beyond but, fingers crossed for them.
Clouded yellows spend most of the time feeding on wild flowers for nectar, seeking out clover, thistles and knapweed. They may visit gardens for aubretia and marigolds, flitting swiftly from flower to flower and are difficult to approach.
In its warmer native climes the clouded yellow may have up to four broods in a year, females capable of laying up to 600 eggs on food plants. In successful breeding years many of the European population migrate to Britain and we experience "clouded yellow years" with many thousands arriving all over the country.
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I watched the three flying until they were out of sight. A few years ago I found one in an old lime kiln and often wonder what happened to it.