'I see and sing, by my own eyes inspired' J Keats. ('Ode to Psyche' 1819 )

 'Even the last butterflies are thirsty' . Rimbaud. ('A Season in Hell' 1881 )

 (These two quotes  express historically the moment  from a possible, though often despairing new relationship with nature sought by many romantics to Rimbaud's prescient foreboding pointing to the edge of an abyss we now clearly face everywhere)

David & Stuart Wise 2000-3


     The fascinating question of 'aberration' among the Lepidoptera of West Yorkshire covers a far larger field than we initially realised. Observing butterflies  over a number years here 'aberration' forced themselves upon our attention: we did not set out to look for them. Though wildlife everywhere is seriously threatened, a situation never previously encountered,  nevertheless some butterflies in Britain are extending  their range northwards in quite amazing, unpredictable ways. The following chapter deals mainly with this  disparate but connected phenomena in just some of the Pennine uplands.

There are some basic reasons for this:

A.      Greenhouse warming encouraging certain species to continue colonising fresh territory where previously their existence had never even been suspected.  This is taking place against the favourable backdrop of a very steep decline in sulphur emissions in the industrial valleys as smoke stack industry changed. As the late 19th and early 20th century Lepidopterist, Herbert Spencer of Elland, said referring  to this period: 'As the chimneys went up, the species went down'.

B.       Land in the Pennines as in other upland areas, has been taken out of production because a lot of small hill farms have been sold off for residential use. Therefore what is been created is a return to something like the traditional meadow. This process has also been assisted by 'set aside', whereby money is paid out to keep land fallow. Steve Doyle, a Lepidopterist from Cumbria, reckons that  this single fact alone is more important than global warming in assisting the general spread of species. But be that as it may. On the other hand, there is no doubt that intensive pasturage is developing in the Pennine hillsides and valleys for more sheep and cattle. In particular, vast flocks of sheep now roam freely on top of the moors quite unlike the sheep fold era of the dry stone walls. Obviously, in any larger assessment of what is happening to nature it's now essential to equip ourselves with  sound, up to date knowledge, of contemporary farming economics in the uplands and what the real outlook is. For instance, it seems that intensive sheep rearing on the unfenced moor land seems to have been a factor in the floods of Autumn 2000. Moreover, its also true that unfortunately now in the Pennines, rich wild life sites, here, there and everywhere, are being tampered with in the hopes of a greater agricultural productivity.

 C.     However, habitat in the Pennines so far, is not threatened by the destruction wrought by capital intensive agriculture such as one begins to find to the east of Otley extending into the lower reaches of the Wharfe and out into the plain of York. Under the guise of an agricultural crises one that chiefly affects small farmers  (the 'remnant' rather than 'tenant' farmers of old), land is being farmed more intensively and on a vaster scale than ever before destroying habitat on which lepidoptera flies. Hedges, field margins, coppices, heathland are mercilessly put to the diesel driven plough. In this situation butterflies either do or die, (mostly die) with selective/survival pressure enabling the lucky few to take up residence in locations from which they were previously absent. The Gatekeeper is perhaps the best example of this dual response. That it is extending ever deeper into the Pennines is beyond doubt. However, it has for sometime also begun to populate inner London with small colonies appearing in Brompton Rd cemetery (Chelsea/Fulham) Regents Park and possibly even Hyde Park. An increase in temperature favourable to its expansion elsewhere is unlikely to be responsible for the latter. Whatever the cause, the Gatekeeper is demonstrating an adaptability throughout its expanding range it never formerly possessed. As a separate topic it would be instructive to examine recorded history (and even beyond) and list the species that are the most man-ufactured e.g. the Blackbird, Chaffinch, Robin etc, the Cabbage Whites etc.The danger is that behind this welcome adaptability we have come to rely on a benignly mutating hand of selective providence implying that anything capital can do nature can do better. We have, reaching the stage of suicide capitalism, a catastrophe on an unprecedented, unimaginable scale across a vast swathe of life that will leave, in the not too distant future, no room for manouvre (adaptation) or mutation, favourable or otherwise, because many species will have perished.


     Aberration (better adaptation) is a complex matter and not easy to study. Some aspects are clearly visible others not so visible like the size, structure and thickness of an insect's thorax that are of great importance. Here we shall be largely looking at wing markings because they are easily the most visible aspect. But a distinction has to be drawn at the outset. There are those aberrations that figure in comprehensive surveys going well back into the 19th century. (e.g. Frohawk and Tutt) which appear either once only or, very rarely, are the product generally of a recessive gene. Below are two such examples photographed in Yorkshire during the last decade: an albino Small Copper and a Meadow Brown with off-white under wings. We are unsure about the status of the latter. It may or may not be genetic in origin: a close monitoring of the old pit yard at Thorne Moorends over the past four years could have established if the aberration was recurrent in which case the chances of it having an inevitable gene basis would be greatly strengthened. Some 70 plus varieties of the Meadow Brown have been recorded and there is some doubt if it is to be found amongst them in which case it could be considered a new mutation. However, a similar specimen was photographed in Ilkley in the summer of 2000 but we need verification of this.

    We also feel it is far more interesting and instructive to concentrate on the extensive variations in West Yorkshire to be found in particular species which occur every year from one generation to the next. Throughout several decades observing butterflies we have never come across such wide and unsuspected variation and which makes the upland districts of West Yorks such an exciting place, more so, than for instance, the celebrated North and South Downs of  Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire though even here, there are still interesting anomalies which often go unrecorded.

    How does one define a variety or adaptation? In addition to markings and wing spots the notion of variety could be extended to include size even if the preferred term is race. Almost certainly it is an adaptive phenomena. On the south west slopes of Ilkley Moor, facing Bradford and Bingley we have noticed dwarf Small Tortoiseshells some 8mm smaller than the usual form. Unless photographed against a normal specimen this is not apparent from a photo. We cannot say if, at this elevation, there were several broods or only the one and if the other generations had the same dwarf character. Possibly, if there are other generations to be seen throughout the year, their development may also have been speeded up, as these butterflies are on the wing in early September. Any stinging nettles (their foodplant) thereabouts were very shrunken specimens with meagre leaves. However, sometimes reduced size and different markings can go together. Small Orange Tips breeding on low, heather-clad moor land above Denholme in the vicinity of Howarth may perhaps be examples of ab: hesperides which some lepidopterists according to R South 'considered a distinct species' and where 'the orange patch does not reach  beyond the black discal spot, which in normal specimens it usually does.' (c.f. South's  'Butterflies' 1906 ).We say may because though Orange Tips survive here reasonably well, we have been unable to get close enough to the extremely nervous dwarf males to verify anything at all since first noting their existence on this bleak spot in the early 1980's.

    It may sound tendentious but in our opinion West Yorks, particularly in the upland districts, is in the throws of a vast biological experiment affecting flora and fauna alike. This historic shift in range (and let us hope it does not foreshadow the end of history for butterflies and humanity!) is also accompanied, perhaps inevitably, by a sort of lottery of form and behaviour. A word of caution however:  because of the paucity of historical records it could be the case that the range of variation has been there, in pockets, for sometime maybe even centuries but has largely been over looked. Historical investigation, in addition to field work, especially of old reports, languishing unread in depressing library shelves and also local and national butterfly and moth collections is called for. The collections of  Ben Morley, Geo.T Porritt and un-attributed boxes of late 19th century Lepidoptera in the Tolson Memorial Museum in Huddersfield make for fascinating study - but more about the particulars later. We were pretty astounded by what we did (and didn't) turn up.

   The entomologist Tutt, was, perhaps the most dedicated aberrationist but his indefatigable pursuit of aberration hid a failure to ask the reasons why. He was, by all accounts, unsurpassed in seeking out these treasured rarities. Highly competitive he was probably keenly aware his name would live on forever in the annals of Lepidoptera because Tutt literally did name so many varieties.

    Undoubtedly, the great question that dominated biology in the late 19th century especially in Britain and Germany, was that of the inevitability of variation and its production, questions that eventually were to turn out to be not necessarily one and the same: (nature versus nurture). It is ironic to think that when Darwin published his book; 'The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication' in 1868, in which he advanced his now discredited hypotheses of 'gemmules' (carried in the blood from all the tissues of the body to the reproductive organs) the problem had been solved two years earlier, in 1866 by Gregor Mendel. Darwin though, unlike Mendel, had been a bad student of mathematics and maybe it was because Mendel was pre-eminently a mathematician that he had no problem with non-blending inheritance (the segregation of genes) because numbers separate - e.g. 52 is made up of a 5 and a 2 which can be recombined. Yet what carries through 'The Variations''  is Darwin's enormous experience as a naturalist which easily outstrips that of Mendel's in the potting shed - poor Mendel who was to languish there in obscurity all his life after having initiated nothing short of a revolution in biology. In fact, if geneticists in the first decades of the 20th century had not been so dismissive of Darwin, they might have seen that his discussion of 'correlated variability' in 'The Variations...' (e.g. four horned sheep have coarse wool ) could have been grounded genetically earlier than in fact happened. (N.B. It is important to constantly bear this in mind when dealing with butterfly variations in West Yorks).

       The immediate impact of Darwin's ideas on Lepidoptera belongs to Walter Henry Bates who in 1862 published; 'Insects Found in the Amazon Valley'. In this paper, which has since become a classic, he notes that tropical butterflies, which insectivorous birds snack upon, have a tendency to imitate species with a disgusting taste. When Darwin read the paper he could have kicked himself because it was so obvious. Henry Russell Wallace, a long term collaborator and friend of Bates and co-founder of natural selection, also ruminated at length on the high incidence of mimicry among insects which, he thought, was due to the proportionally higher incidence of variation because of the vast number of insects.

      Given these two examples, it comes as a surprise to learn that the main stream of Lepidoptera in Britain in the late 19th century was totally unaffected by this far more interesting approach to the endlessly fascinating study of variation. In Britain though, the mainstream aberration-obsessed Lepidopterist were not thinking along these lines and tended to take the given of variation on a very superficial level. This is what predominated in the late Victorian era and so dismayed E B Ford looking at cases upon cases of butterflies and moths with no accompanying date, site, or, tabulation to the dead specimens - making the presentations scientifically worthless. Ford recounts too, that he found the mere 'magpie' amassing of varieties depressing, trivialising Lepidoptera to the level of a game. He also mused there was something else behind it though he was not sure what. His two books have an avowed public purpose: to re-orientate the collector to study genetics, geographical races, distribution and environment. It is a 'total' approach to a specialist subject and equally applicable to any other branch of biology even though Ford's notion of totality excluded socio-economic factors other than occasional shafts aimed at modern farming methods and suburban sprawl (1930s style ribbon development probably). Yet in the late 19th century, despite the intense passion variation excited, scientific research was all but restricted to a bio-chemical approach - for instance, the investigation into the yellow and white pigments of the Pieridae or the light experiments carried out by Poulton on the larvae of the Small Tortoiseshell to produce pale or dark pupae. In saying this, one cannot under estimate the continuing fascination varieties hold for us simply because they are so visually arresting. They occupy in Lepidoptera the place rare migrants hold in Ornithology. It becomes a compulsive attraction for the driven enthusiast but then why should the enthusiast be so driven by this as they undoubtedly are' It points to something but the answer cannot be given.

       This was substantially the approach adopted in Richard South's 'Butterflies of Britain' (1906) which is the quintessential popular book on varieties and deals with an impressive range of them. (In his two volume study of moths published the following year, the emphasis is more upon a simple description of each species excepting the rather well known ones e.g. the Buff Ermine). South, in his book, mentions heat inducing/reducing factors in the pupa stage as applied in controlled temperature experiments outlined in a pamphlet by Dr. Max Standfuss  who was able to create the 'blind Peacock' and the ab: testudo of the Large Tortoiseshell - where the black spots of the fore wings are united - and Camberwell Beauties with large cream borders.

       No doubt, Kettlewell was aware of these antecedents when he conducted his famous heat experiments. Tellingly however, he was able to detect in his experiments upon the Scarlet Tiger moth a gene which only functioned (i.e. became apparent as a dark variety in the phenotype) when bred at a constant temperature. South, also says, it is possible that caterpillars feeding on certain plants produce differently coloured butterflies but he is not in any hurry to investigate more fully. Removing himself from any further consideration, he says, apropos of the Green Veined White: 'It has been stated that caterpillars fed upon hedge garlic and horseradish produce light butterflies and those reared on mignonette and watercress produce dark butterflies'. (Page 40: op. cit.)

     We feel strongly that despite the half-hearted overtures to science, the driving force behind the passion for varieties in the late 19th centuries and early 20th century was far from scientific and which Ford vaguely intuited. Its roots lay in the success and failure of romanticism as a revolutionary force, changing forever the idea of nature - particularly as expressed in pre-ordained artistic forms. Wordsworth and Coleridge are the defining moments in this trajectory, the latter especially going - if only briefly - far beyond his role as a poet as they both quickly reneged on the subversive spirit of their youth to become 'legitimists' to employ William Hazlitt's term. This highly contradictory combination was further reinforced by the furore surrounding the repeal of the Corn Laws when an alliance of powerful landed/banking interests opposed the rising industrial bourgeoisie. Losing the battle, the former were able to needle the latter carrying out a backhanded but gentlemanly guerrilla campaign, ranging from factory reforms (e.g. Oastler) to a view of nature that both 'realised' and repressed the truth of romanticism at its most extreme moment of development. The aberration phenomenon - for such it was amongst British Lepidopterists - did not have an equivalent anywhere else expressing as it did a revolt against dead manufacture and standardisation. Varieties were a living symbol of a transformed life and therefore in no need of further exploration. A mutation is a promise of transcendence, a pastiche Mendelism of emotional transport calibrated to suit the uniqueness of the variety! A run of the mill book like A M Stewart's 'British Butterflies' (1912) (although the colour reproductions are unsurpassed) reads as follows on the Lycaenidae: 'It will be sufficient to point out the specific characteristics of each of these blues without going into minute detail, which would be wearisome, even if it were possible (which it is not) to paint in words what nature has painted so admirably on the butterflies wings.' Again and again, one is struck by the sumptuousness of R South's descriptions as if nature itself is an unsurpassed palette of colours. The implied question is: what use representation? Hazlitt, who was a bridge to a more inclusive critique that failed to materialise as the 19th century unfolded in Britain, was almost of the same accord as Hegel that, 'the arts were dying,' though he did not say it so unequivocally. In a vivid reminiscence, in which he muses about Wordsworth, he remembers saying to himself:  'with what eyes these men see nature'. In another essay on Thomas Malthus, Hazlitt makes the following comment, remarkable for its futurity - in view of the interpretation both Darwin and Wallace were later to give to Malthus's,'Essay on Population'-'we think he had the opportunity and the means in his hands of producing a great work on the principle of population; but we believe he has let it slip from his  hands having an eye to other things beside that broad and unexplained question'.

       Naturalist vicars were by no means uncommon in the 19th century going right back to the great Gilbert White and even earlier to John Ray. However, there was an undeniable class slant to these nature enthusiasts composed, as they often were, of lawyers, clergymen, City of London financiers, military top brass. (How much of our knowledge of Irish Lepidoptera in the 19th century including that of local forms came from within the Imperial army?) The author Stewart, of the butterfly book mentioned above, was in the Indian army and even today, Emmett, the co-author of the most comprehensive recent survey of native species of butterflies and moths, was formerly a military man). The opening paragraph of L H Newman's 'Butterfly Farmer' is a condensed expression bordering on parody of this very select club and worth quoting at length: 'All my life I have been surrounded by butterflies and talk of butterflies. I was born on my father's Butterfly Farm in the village of Old Bexley in Kent which is mentioned in the Domesday book. When I was sent to boarding school at the age of eight I did not leave the world of butterflies behind me, for my headmaster, the Rev. Harold Herbert Hockey was a keen collector; in fact my fees were paid partly in kind from my father's extensive stock - surely a unique arrangement'!

        Malthus and a few others aside, the political outlook of the naturalists' elite was one nation as opposed to laissez faire. History essentially was about lineage not upheaval and revolutionary change to those self-appointed guardians of natural history. Conscious of their pedigree these overlords of nature could not let their enthusiasm run away with them and their conservative romanticism was heavily indebted, if not consciously, to the latter day Wordsworth and Coleridge, the conceiver of a 'new clerisy' of politicians. Yet, even in spite of themselves, the ghost of a past formal radicalism which in English romanticism was far in advance of the times and any other country, would flit, wraith-like, amongst their nature notes and diaries. Unconscious seismographs of daring thoughts they could not express themselves more openly and coherently.

        The aberrant phenomena in the late 19th century was also a fin-de-siecle admission of fatigue and spiritual desolation, which could not announce itself as such. For that we have to go to France and Huysmans 'Against Nature' written in the 1880s. Constantly seeking to leap out the pages on which it was written, this proto anti-novel contains a scene in which Des Esseintes fills his house with exotic 'natural flowers that would look like fakes as if in defiance of all the familiar aspects of plant life'. These 'varieties', these 'floral follies', are a cut above 'slum flowers', 'lower-class flowers', 'popular plants' and 'bourgeois blooms', than in the more current use of the term which here adds another case to the binanial system of classification of the phylum flora. Prior to this episode, Des Esseintes has grown weary of symbolist poetry (without naming it specifically, there is little doubt he has symbolism in mind) unable any more, 'to thrill to the delicate sorcery of the unusual epithet which 'opens up infinite perspectives to the imagination of the initiate'. Setting the literary to one side, which ,'he would now have to forget for a while or forever' (our italics) he needed to go one better and surround himself with living freaks of nature. The passage from the literary to the natural  is here far more sharply truncated and obvious than that between English romanticism and the aberration phenomena but the implication is that nature is almost as dead as culture.

      'Against Nature' is an account of one man's doomed efforts to move beyond the interiority of symbolism (i.e. the dream) to realise it in reality but within the confines of four walls. It is hermetic to the point of asphyxiation. All living things wilt and die in this greenhouse atmosphere. Mallarme, the only contemporary poet Des Esseintes has any time for, is open to a world ignored by Huysmans: that of political economy, technology and commodification. The mass production of books calls for a new architecture replacing that of book stalls. Newspapers and advertisements abound, the competing mosaic intertwining fact and fiction (but not imagination) is absorbed simultaneously, fonts are juxtaposed dictating the appropriate vocal response whether audible or not. Waste paper and print are strewn about the streets and in a sunlit garden a gust of wind gathers up a flimsy magazine that finally came to settle on a rose bush. As each page is lifted by the breeze, encrypting enigmatic but meaningful messages, a white butterfly appears. Renowned for his blank page - in which all literary ambition is laughed to scorn - Mallarme, given the significance the tabula rasa of silence and white margins has to him ('my damage as a poet') is, here, suggesting nature is in want of its colours. By choosing a Cabbage White - the commonest of butterflies - (at least before the widespread use of insecticides ) Mallarme, is in effect saying, all of life is in need of re-creation, a need that must not be deflected by fascination with the bizarre for its own sake. In its bare outlines it is a simple obvious truth.

       The flower episode in 'Against Nature' concludes with a ghastly nightmare in which the flowers are horribly transfigured into a carnivorous womanplant. In Mallarme's; 'Afternoon of a fawn', amidst the decay of human relationships and understated autumnal chill of ecological devastation (it was after all written over 100 years ago) there is a hint of bestiality and voyeurism. Here in Britain there was nothing so rounded and with the same potential for a more complete synthesis. That had been lost with Hazlitt and De Quincey. The links had been severed long ago and, as a specialism, the aberrant phenomena gone awry had become closed off to outside influence. In its own way it had become as rarefied as Des Esseintes pastimes. But a symptomatic reading of entomological magazines from this period may reveal an anthropomorphic bubbling-up of pressure relating at one remove to the fate of humanity under capitalism, obscurely seeking to set to rights the relationship between man and nature which the aberration phenomena had helped invert. The wholeness of vision - which no matter how ideological - characterised romanticism had melted away and 'the people' with it. It was no longer a matter of town v country (distinguishing more or less two conflicting modes of production) but a generalised disenchantment with humanity played out in the fields, hedgerows and woods.

     Edward Selous, (1858-1934) was just such an unsociable loner, shunning human contact, opting for obscurity to spend weeks at a time observing bird behaviour all by himself. Having 'Darwin in his soul' he was, on the other hand, hardly typical and certainly vastly different to the mainstream of Lepidopterists, (but without his example, Julian Huxley's epoch making investigations into bird courtship rituals in the early years of the 20th century may have come to little). Huxley, however, is able to give weight to a word like 'displacement' by comparing bird behaviour to the far greater emotional range a human being can call on, each appropriate to the situation. He was also one of the few biologists to have taken Freud seriously though 'displacement' as used by Huxley has a different meaning in the Freudian lexicon being a consequence of repression - half suggesting that animal reproduction (i.e. sexuality) as formerly understood by biologists was now in need of revision (c/f 'Bird Watching and Bird Behaviour', 1930). Though Freud convinced himself he had found a kite motif concealed within the drapery of Leonardo's 'Madonna and Child' cartoon, relating to an incident in Leonardo's childhood, the pity is he never once mentions butterflies. (Quite an oversight considering the ancient Greek word Psyche was synonymous with butterfly. Think what Freud could have done for butterflies had he performed a psyche-analysis!)

       This misanthropy still plays a role today in fencing nature off. All too often one meets wardens belonging to wild life trusts, particularly English Nature, who can barely tolerate the presence of visitors on their reserves so great is their bitterness against people in general. Naturally they must have been selected for the job because they possessed this qualification. It is, unfortunately - because of the runaway devastation of nature -  a growing tendency ranging from the more fanatical animal rightists to 'Earth First' which may yet get the chance to supplant in horror the genocide of 3 million with that of 3 billion. But most people, more than likely will have gone mad by then.


      The preceding lengthy digression was necessary but now we have to deal with the present. The majority of aberrations we shall be dealing with here are judged from the standpoint of adaptation. The perspective is therefore fundamentally different from the 19th century aberration phenomena as is the relationship to the total social whole. If there appears to be too much of a regression to the original spirit of romanticism, it is to avoid the pitfalls of the past both social, scientific and artistic. Already in one of Wordsworth's earliest narratives; 'Lines left upon a seat in a yew tree'(1795) the separation is evident. 'Nurtured' by 'science' he is led into a 'wild scene' which because he cannot find a suitable niche in the job market, wherein he could be of service, is forced into rural solitude. Saddened that he cannot play an active role in civil society and missing day-to-day social contact, nature begins to swell to visionary heights before his unblinking gaze. And in this experience, lessons are to be learnt, even if not of the same pious stamp as Wordsworth's - which can make a person squirm. The young G F Hegel in a similar vein (the parallel is extraordinary) seeks refuge in nature so as to avoid being assimilated by his social environment: two years after Wordsworth's park bench scribble, he wrote in 1797: 'I fled into the arms of nature to reconcile myself with myself and with mankind-------------and frustrate any alliance with(it)'. Before long he will turn his back on this isolationist creed to embrace the political fall out of the French revolution ('the prose of life') and the industrial revolution and its economic consequences - laissez faire capitalism 'the animal kingdom of the spirit'. But not before firing deadly salvos at its fundamentals. Marx was to share a similar conception of romanticism and his view of nature as a social category, one that has been worked on over and over again, was indebted to Hegel.

        Though Marx is justified in reworking and correcting every item he could of Hegel's thought, they shared one thing in common: the alarming view that mankind was progressively dominating nature. Take, for example, Hegel's marginal note to one of his 1805/6 lectures: 'wind, mighty river, mighty ocean, subjugated, cultivated. No point in exchanging compliments with it - puerile sentimentalities which clings to individualities'. A page of exclamation marks would not be sufficient to register our collective shock. Two hundred years later we know the 'mighty ocean' currents of the Atlantic and Pacific are far more likely to subjugate us and we are only beginning to appreciate the catastrophic consequences if they were to shift. Though preventable within the time scale of human beings, as a species, should this happen, all we could do is look on impotently. At the end of the day romanticism had a lot more respect for what it eulogised, without ever being able to find a way out of its contradictions.

        It is reflections like these that turn our joy at seeing the remarkable influx of butterflies into the Pennine uplands into pain. This sudden change sets the mind racing. Research has established that climatic change can occur within a matter of years. What if, what if, what if this storm before the storm of storms is heralding an all year wintry chill or un-seasonal summer-like warmth with much of southern Europe burning like a hot cinder? No one can yet be sure and computer models of possible change are based on variables open to dispute.

     During UK stress awareness week, in Autumn 2000, we asked ourselves if wild life in general is not suffering from stress. Are not the butterflies that are 'new' and continuing to spread in the Yorkshire uplands also not being tortured into changing' In evolutionary theory stasis is a period in which no evolutionary change takes place. In the Pennines we may be witnessing a process of die or adapt and hence the changes that are occurring seen and as yet unseen, may be are unprecedented, even a stage in incipient speciation. And yet, like a persistent ache, the thought that this great experiment may be the last won't go away.

    The planned conservation of butterflies is based on a precise understanding of habitat requirement. One could describe it as ecological essentialism. In order to guarantee their preservation, the fad for varieties has necessarily given place to this rescue operation which demands that maximum attention be given to the life cycle of species in the wild. There is no doubting that in this process much valuable  information has been turned up.  Here, however, the study of variation is not different in kind even if it could be described as 'nominalist' rather than 'essentialist' especially where insects begin to colonise untypical terrain. Finally, in studying the Pennine variations fascinating though they are in themselves, we deem it actually unscientific to divorce it from the social question which, in the never ending disasters, confronts us everyday. And only by abolishing exploitation, spectacular commodity production, wage labour, money, nationhood and the state will butterflies like humanity be granted a future.


    In the space available we will mainly concentrate on three species: the Green Hairstreak, the Meadow Brown and the Ringlet but with more than a few asides on others like the ab: citrona of the Marbled  White and the 'blue' female of the Common Blue. It must be stressed that we do not regard what we have to say as in any way definitive. For example, the difficulties in the way of plotting the geographical extent of Green Hairstreak variations have proved immense because of a succession of very wet, cool and overcast late Springs for the past four years leading up to and including the millennium year. Our assumptions are perpetually being modified with each new discovery. Moreover, Lepidoptera-wise what roughly takes an hour to discover in the south of England takes ten times longer in the northern uplands courtesy of turbulent Pennine weather.

     Investigation and field research is obviously still at an early stage so question must remain and many exciting discoveries are still to be made. The terrain is wide open.


 GREEN HAIRSTREAK (Callophrys rubi)

     In 1999 we published a  short edition text on Green Hairstreak varieties in West Yorkshire having for a number of years noted the large amount of variations to be found in this butterfly in the valleys and dales on  nearly all sides of  the urban centre of Bradford. It was something we hadn't come across elsewhere in the country particularly among the smaller populations of parts of the North Downs which we knew quite well. The most striking contrast we noted was between the many spotted punctata form flying on Otley Chevin to the one spot caecus form  residing on the sides of  the Ryburn river valley near Ripponden, west of Halifax.                                                                          

     An abbreviated version of the text was published in the Argus,  journal of Yorkshire Butterfly Conservation, together with some additional interesting information from the editor, Howard Frost adding further to  a controversy as to what is the real definition of the caecus form: (one spot or no spot or both?) Referring to the Heath/Emmet magnum opus, he pointed out that the authors designated caecus as having no spots. Yet others like E B Ford state that the caecus/caeca forms (obviously including the Ringlet here) do have slight spots but the scales have been brushed away. R South noted, on page 147 of his 'Butterflies', that punctata was 'chiefly from northern localities' and then more interestingly comments - presumably on the same localities' that: 'Now and then the under side of the hind wings is found to be brown in colour, and this change in colour  has been ascribed to moisture.'  Just how such a process takes place, South doesn't elaborate and more is the pity as we didn't know such Green Hairstreak aberrations existed. Interestingly, South never mentions bilberry as a larval foodplant and yet clearly now  - a 100 years later - we can see some relationship between the  Green Hairstreak varieties and bilberry whether this is food plant, elevation or both.

   Throughout the 90s what was slowly  becoming obvious was local naturalists discovering more and more Green Hairstreak colonies in the Pennines, some of which were huge numbering 2000 to 3000 plus - flying at any given time - with territories extending for miles. Although G Porritt recorded the butterfly in the Pennine area, he never proclaimed such an abundance. Were these colonies relatively recent or did they go back centuries? Whatever, it certainly proved rich pickings for those enjoying trail blazing.

Otley 2000
Above:  Spot the butterflies! Long distance shot of mating Green Hairstreaks on  a young oak. Otley Chevin's "big field"  May 2000

Otley 2000
Above: Close up of the mating pair. An ab: caecus and an Ab: punctata. Note the may blossom in the background.

     Later, historical facts were to prove more interesting. In the Lepidoptera collections of Ben Morley, Porritt and un-attributed cases of 19th century dead stock in the Tolson Memorial Museum in Huddersfield there are NO specimens of Yorkshire Green Hairstreaks! The caecus form was there alright but from Morayshire in 1861(Porritt) and Perthshire (un-attributed). Morley's Green Hairstreaks  were captured in either Taunton (Somerset ) or Merthyr Tydfil in S. Wales and those with their hind wings set uppermost were all normal specimens. Moreover, on checking Porritt's 'List of Yorkshire Lepidoptera ' the only mention he makes of this butterfly in the Pennines is Sheffield and Barden near the Strid/Bolton Abbey area of Wharfedale. At Barden, Porritt makes the revealing single comment: 'rare'. No other mentioned site - Pontefract etc - could be bilberry based.

      We are more convinced than ever after looking at the collections of the West Yorkshire Lepidopterists, Haxby, Carter and Briggs  at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley, that the Green Hairstreak started to fan out in Yorkshire during the 20th century. Probably there were various pincer movements in this from  the North Yorks Moors, Sheffield, the Derbyshire Dales and Lincolnshire. In West Yorkshire, it seems most likely that the Green Hairstreak colony on Barden moor started to expand numerically during the early decades of the 20th century spreading towards Ilkley moor where it became well established by the 1950s. (As an aside to all of this, interestingly, in the Carter collection, there is a semi-caecus, captured on Barden moor, May 1888).  From what we can gather, after looking at numerous  collections, there seems to be no specimen records for the West Yorkshire Pennines prior to the 1950s when suddenly there seems to a fair amount represented particularly in the Haxby and Briggs cabinets where there are a  considerable number from Ilkley and Austwick (in N Yorks). In the Haxby collection there are examples of rather less defined punctata and caecus than one would find at the turn of the 21st century. It would seem therefore, that it's likely the character of the varieties became a lot more clearly defined and widespread throughout the last 50 years or so, even though the Ilkley moor site virtually disappeared until 'rediscovery' in the very late 90s. At the same time, according to the book, 'The Natural History of  the Scarborough District' published  around 1960, the Green Hairstreak was virtually everywhere on the North York moors in the 1950s. According to the Wharfedale Naturalists Record supplied by David Howson, The Green Hairstreak goes back to 1947 when good numbers were noted at Hazel Worth Moor and at Bolton Abbey in 1946 - more downstream on the Wharfe then previously. More surprisingly, around the same time, a population was recorded at Burley Woodhead - considerably more to the south east and near Bradford. These records however, make no mention of variation.

      Basically, our original publication, with its provisional conclusions, was a series of observations, plus hypothesis, requesting more information on Green Hairstreak varieties throughout the rest of these islands. In retrospect, we would suggest that these arguments need tightening or elaborated more carefully. We put quite an emphasis on green house warming. Although we still would insist that greenhouse warming is the major factor in bringing about the huge increase in Green Hairstreak numbers , we would perhaps be more specific. We would suggest, (to be more precise) that the relatively hard, frost free winters perhaps helps the pupae to survive. The caterpillar of the Green Hairstreak haphazardly pupates anywhere on the ground and on the Pennines, at least, one wonders just how many purportedly are taken away to the ants nest as often the ants don't seem that numerous on hillsides (e.g. Ripponden) where the butterfly is abundant. Perhaps very few  pupae are thus protected by the husbandry of ants  because there is no symbiotic relationship? Simply put, the pupa has nothing on offer to the ant which Julian Huxley demonstrated  as the fulcrum in his  'Ants' book. If so (and this is tendentious) the virtual disappearance of the prolonged, hard Pennine frost has probably hugely assisted the  Green Hairstreak, more than off-setting the possibly harmful effect of increased rainfall, particularly in late Spring  which can be damaging  to mating and young caterpillars.

     Although we  received many replies to our original publication with interesting comments about related topics vis this butterfly, hardly anybody was able to provide any useful information and most observers hadn't noticed variations even in Scotland where in good years there are massive populations of Green Hairstreak. Dudley Cheesman of Somerset BC, did however provide some valuable  data on caecus and punctata forms on Exmoor where, like in Yorkshire, the larval food plant is bilberry. Dudley also recalled seeing a caecus form at Whitbarrow, Cumbria.

       What became clearer with the help of these replies was that there seems to be some relationship  between bilberry and the extent of Green Hairstreak varieties. Extent must be emphasised because the naming and first knowledge of caecus and punctata may have originated in the south of England (perhaps the big New Forest populations?) where, the larval food plant is anything but bilberry. Precisely what this relationship is remains unclear. The different colouring on bilberry leaves and the subsequent mimicry predicated on different environments maybe a factor. On the other hand, frequent rain shower droplets and heavy dew look remarkably like the spots on the wings of Green Hairstreaks particularly in the sparkling sunlight after a spring downpour.

      We didn't realise just how common variation was among this butterfly until  spring 2000. Previously, we'd reckoned at most a 60% variation but it was to prove, on one site, a severe under-estimation. To quote from a letter to Dudley Cheesman of Somerset BC dated 26.6.2000'.'There is a kind of informal, south facing steep hillside, running 18 miles or so from the fairly high and bleak Pennines near the M62 Yorks/Lancs border which follows on down through the valley of the river Ryburn, crossing Caldervale and finally, heading on down through Shibden Dale to Shibden  Head at Queensbury on the outskirts of Bradford. Quite frankly, on this terrain, we were unable to find one typical specimen of the Green Hairstreak even on those rare, fairly sunny days, when they could be observed in profusion in places. It was as though every variety and sub-variety of typical varieties were to be found. It was exhiliarating to note this veritable, total freak show. The dominant form was caecus or sub-divisions of  caecus. I even think I found one without any spots but on reflection, the photograph I took could be a somewhat dished specimen and you have to be wary of such mistakes. At the moment though - when clicking the shutter - I was sure there wasn't an observable spot beneath the costa. On the same terrain (and this was a surprise!) punctata were occasionally to be seen, although by en large most Green Hairstreaks of this disposition were 'attempted' punctata i.e. their spots were weakly formed on the upper wings and at times, barely visible. Never before had we seen punctata here but this was the first time we'd been able to have a good look at the Green Hairstreaks, due to unfavourable weather since 1997''. And something of further interest. Profuse variation on this hillside  wasn't only confined to the Green Hairstreak  as the same process seemed to engulf the population of the Common Heath moths. Is this, therefore, more a product of peculiar environmental factors which need investigation' Whether this polyglot, but marvellous confusion, can be found in other Yorkshire Green Hairstreak colonies remains for future research and for anybody to take up. Certainly on  'the big field' somewhat adjacent to the White House on Otley Chevin, punctata flew but no other variety was noted.

     Preoccupied with finding an adaptive explanation of the reduced caecus and increased punctata spotting on the Pennine Green Hairstreak populations - and, even if it takes years, there surely must be one or two unexpected though welcome remarks on the green colouring of the butterfly were forced upon our attention. In response to the questionnaire on Green Hairstreaks, the secretary of the Cornwall branch of BC, John Wacker, memorably wrote that; 'many years ago now in the late 1930's to early 40's, I remember large colonies on the North Downs near Canterbury. They invariably inhabited the edges of beech woods, where they would rest in the upper canopies, suddenly swooping down to the ground level, often 10-12 at a time. But it was impossible to see them on the beech: they exactly matched the colour of fresh beech leaves' (our italics). One of us began to wonder if this 'green' was subject to local variation and how best establish if this was true and pondering on the possibility of taking, 'precise' photos of Green Hairstreaks from different localities around the country. If the same batch of film was used, stored at an even temperature, then developed in exactly the same way, then a careful comparison of the prints could well show, beyond reasonable doubt, that changes in tint actually were occurring. It would demonstrate that minor variations in hue were being selected for, to suit the ambient shade of green. Instead of a gene complex, a single gene coding for colour would almost certainly be at work here, though one would need to rule out the possibility of chance physiological variation.

     In the spring of 2000, an excited Susan Stead (BUWG and BC) of Eldwick, Bingley, phoned to say she had discovered  Green Hairstreaks in Deepcliffe Woods near Harden in the Bradford Metropolitan District and that they were of a beautiful, 'almost viridian green'. Checking a colour chart, viridian seemed an inappropriate choice of colour most especially when compared to set specimens in museums and to book illustrations. Leafing through several field guides the colour was variously described as 'metallic green' (Heath/Emmet 1991 ) and of a 'velvety look' (Thomas/Lewington 1991) and by Saunders  (1939) as 'a perfect camouflage when it is sitting still among leaves.' However, upon visiting Otley Chevin on the 28th of May 2000, during the only brief period of sunshine for two weeks, sure enough the butterflies were temporarily viridian and highly visible as they basked on the bilberry and young oaks. The near faultless cryptic colouration had for the moment being abandoned which had caused Richard South to note in 'Butterflies and Moths of the Wayside and Woodland' (1939) the Green Hairstreaks 'resemblance on the underside to the leaves on which it rests is so perfect that it is extremely difficult to see'.

   It seems to us that uniquely amongst the butterflies of these islands, the Green Hairstreak is able to significantly modify, because of the reflective sheen of the wings, the actual tint of the wings, a quality linked, though not fully bought out, in the above descriptions.

      Butterfly scales generally are greasy and water resistant. One of us watched one Green Hairstreak (26th May, 2000) on Otley Chevin endure a downpour on the fringes of a storm which devastated the Low Countries, lasting several hours. During this time the wings received many a direct hit from the driving raindrops which would splash off the wings like from grease proof paper. Though the butterfly angled its wings so it was parallel to the slanting rain to avoid a worse soaking (as did another specimen observed on the same site during a shower later the same week) it did not, to any significant degree, avail itself of the protection the underside of a bilberry leaf - low down in the herbiage - could have provided.

      It is possible this plastic rainmac of scales though easily dislodgeable (both butterflies looked considerably more dishevelled after undergoing the ordeal by water) is more mirror-like than with other native species. So, in addition to providing protection from the rain - especially a prolonged Pennine drenching - it also reflects many different shades of green and blue (the 'viridian" effect) which makes the butterfly stand out when at rest but difficult to follow on a clear day once framed against the blue sky. The pearlescent quality of the under side of the Holly Blue may serve a similar function when at rest on holly leaves. Viewed from a distance, the arc of its wings closely matches the arcs of reflected sky blue on the glossy holly leaves. It is a vanishing trick difficult to capture on film because on getting closer it at once becomes apparent it is a Holly Blue and not an effect of light. The continued viability of a species so often depends on its ability to fade into the background and become part of the landscape. So it is  with the Green Hairstreak:  getting lost becomes the best guarantor of finding it.

       However, there is some circumstantial evidence to back up the claim that amongst the Green Hairstreak  different shades of green are to be found. Hence, once we expect the Green Hairstreak to be 'green', we tend to become blind to the subtle differences in tint. If we compare the Green Hairstreaks in Thomas/Lewington (1991) with those in Heath/Emmet (1990), of the eight under side examples, there are seven distinct tints to be seen, some more pronounced than others. Of the four brown upper side illustrations, the only observable difference depends on which of the two volumes one is looking at, which would mean the actual range of green represented here has also something to do with the distortions of the photo-litho process. (In the Heath/Emmet volume all the illustrations have a slightly  lurid tinge). However, be that as it may, it would appear the illustrator, R Lewington, is making a visual point that is not expanded on in the corresponding texts. It would be instructive to find out if these specimens were copied from collections or photographs or, if  the illustrator just happened to dip his brush in the wrong pot!

       Apart from the reflective sheen of the Green Hairstreaks wings considered above, tint also exists independently of the matt or shiny appearance of the wings. In colour theory when a hue is diluted with white light the colour is classed as a tint. A saturated hue in which green approaches the pure spectral primary colour is not to be found in the Green Hairstreak. It is an off-saturated green which means the radiation frequency has been shifted toward both the blue and yellow and hence able to reflect a broader range of colour vital to cryptic camouflage. Thus, the Green Hairstreak possesses a unique blending capacity capable of reflecting the many ambient tints of green the butterfly might encounter in addition to its actual shade of green. Moreover, though the Green Hairstreak is classed as a green butterfly, to a large extent our neural photo-receptors mixes the colour, activating in turn or together the blue/green colour sensitive receptors (e.g. the 'viridian' effect) lodged behind the retina or, the red/green receptors to produce a greenish yellow. The problem then is to determine how far we and the butterflies predators  (apart from parasitic wasps and chrysalis nibbling shrews) given the satin reflective sheen of the wings, do the mixing and to what extent the real and variable colouring of the hind wing is adapted to particular localities. But from whatever angle one views the insect, there can be little doubt it is a flying masterpiece of protective colouration and which may go some way to explaining its widespread distribution far in excess of any other Hairstreak.

       The  viridian aspect of the Green Hairstreaks not quite chameleon-like colouration, may also be important in the mating rituals and nuptial flights of the butterfly. The bluish tinge may signify a mutual readiness to mate and the fact that they are observable to us and insectivorous birds could mean they are visible to each other well in excess of the distance at which pheromones could operate. The viridian would then act between males and females as a kind of signalling system and one possessed in equal degree by both sexes ( unlike for instance the sexual diomorphism of most blue butterflies). Every aerial display we have ever witnessed in which the butterflies often become lost to view as they soared into the blue occurred in sunny weather where the blue/green end of the butterflies wing spectrum was foremost.

       Chasing up references to the Green Hairstreak we chanced on an article in the Journal of Entomology entitled 'Iridescence from diffraction structures in the wing scales of Callophrys Rubi, the Green Hairstreak' (1975). It is certainly an interesting article and provides much food for thought. However, its observations appear to be confined to the four walls of the laboratory and its author, R B Morris, from the J J Thompson laboratory at Reading University, is surely in need of some fieldwork.  The 'viridian' effect just does not fit into this laboratory based schema.

      The term 'iridescence' is also rather misleading. Like it or not, iridescence suggests a broad, rainbow like spectrum of colour, such as one finds in the mauves, pinks, darker or lighter shades of blue, depending on the angle of diffraction, of some male blue butterflies. The sole aim of the paper is to show how this particular form of iridescence could be achieved through a largely sub-optical examination of the Green Hairstreaks wing structure. We say 'could' because from observations in the wild the results are open to other interpretations. It would have been useful also to have compared the sub-optical wing structure of the Green Hairstreak  with that of other Lycaenidae. It has been known for some time, even before the invention of the electron microscope, that the upper, dorsal wings of iridescent butterflies are composed of several thin films acting as interference filters that diffracts light over a fairly broad wave band. It is unlikely that such an intricate structure has evolved purely by chance and must play a major, if poorly understood, role in courtship rituals (c/f the blue female of the Common Blue). For instance, how finely adjusted are these thin films' Are they perforated allowing light  of different wave lengths to pass through whilst trapping and reflecting others'

       How unique amongst butterflies is the perforated lattice of the Green Hairstreaks under side wings which photos taken with an electron microscope has revealed? One  also must constantly bear in mind that the underside, ventral wings of the Green Hairstreak are more important to both sexes than the upper sides, a major fact of life which is not even mentioned in the paper and must limit the veracity of its findings. The perforated lattice substructure goes from back to front stopping at the melanin, light absorbent, brown pigment of the upper, dorsal wings.

       Theoretically, the lattice lets light through on the melanin and absorbs or attenuates light of a blue or otherwise cast and so the overall green iridescence is maintained whatever the angle of the wing. This effect is also aided by the mosaic of groins which dot the scales. Orientated at different angles they produce a uniform colour no matter at what angle the wing is tilted.

       Which is all well and good in the laboratory, except that on a sunny bank side covered in bilberry in late May the wings can turn 'viridian'. Moreover, the scales though revealing a substructure were probably separated from the wing membrane before they  were photographed so that between the melanin pigment and the perforated lattice a crucial detail of the wing anatomy has been left out. It is this that may be responsible for the viridian effect in direct sunlight. A phenomena that was discovered in nature in the last quarter of the 19th century may account for it. The Tyndall effect (named after the 19th century physicist John Tyndall) is a special instance of diffraction and results in the presence of blue colours in many animals. The Tyndall effect arises from the reflection of shorter blue waves of light by finely dispersed particles situated above dark (commonly melanin) pigments. It is possible that the transparent wing membrane is responsible for trapping and scattering the short wave blue light which, mixed with the green of the wing scales, turn a vivid viridian blue/green before our eyes. When this happens the wings also reflect polarised light so that looked at close to they are like a skyscape with 'clouds' scudding across the blue. However, it is not  'skyblue' and there the resemblance ends, no matter how important the viridian effect could be in protecting the butterflies from predation during their ariel nuptial flights and male chasing routines. Yet this colour change, causing the butterflies to stand out from their background, could be essential to the reproduction of the species because it is only at this moment that the butterflies can be sure they have correctly identified each other. Striking differences in wing patterns and colour has long thought to preserve the integrity of the species and  so successful is the cryptic colouration of the Green Hairstreak that they are maybe lost to each other, except at certain moments! Though they may take to the wing just prior to the sun coming out from behind the clouds they are never to be seen on the wing in dull though warm weather (with the possible exception of the Chevin) and their concealment is well nigh absolute.

      The sheen on the underside wings of the Green Hairstreak is very evident and has been noted by numerous Lepidopterists. Matt surfaces are more opaque and even in colour whereas glossy surfaces tend to have a mirror-like reflection. We say 'tend to' because, following the persuasive line of reasoning pursued in the Morris paper, the wings are so structured as to uniquely prevent rainbow-like diffraction  and reflect only the green wave length (say between 510/540 mm)- at least in shadow and overcast conditions. And yet such an outstanding characteristic which profoundly affects a butterfly's life must be there for a purpose. Adjusted as the wings are to the green scale their glossy surface means they are likely to reflect ambient shades of green from leaves and the grass, making the butterfly even more difficult to detect. Of all the British butterflies, the Green Hairstreak is the one that most 'holds a mirror up to nature' even if that nature is necessarily limited to the Green Hairstreaks particular niche.

     The observer watching a Green Hairstreak flying low over the greenery may have noticed a hint of reddish brown. Apart  from its light absorbent capacity, the brown melanin pigment on the upper side wings appear to serve no purpose though the upper wing on the male carries a sex brand. It is a fair bet that virtually no one will have seen the upper dorsal wings exposed in the wild and to get a photo of one with open wings would be an even greater prize.(Incidentally, we have a photo of mating Graylings on Arnside Knott, Cumbria with half-opened wings). Yet watching a Green Hairstreak flying over bank sides covered in bilberry, the hint of reddish brown blends with the pale crimson bilberry flowers which also are practically their sole nectar source at these altitudes. Also at this time of year, the new shoots of leaves, particularly bilberry and young oak leaves (their favourite perch) have a typically reddish tinge from the absorption of soil nutrients prior to the full development of green pigment in the leaves essential to photo synthesis.

       In the paper cited above there is no presence of the living insect. And because of that one can say that the arguments are one-sided and are not balanced and where necessary (and corrected) by natural observation, (even tempted to say by natural selection!). It is as if Newton's prism had suddenly sprouted wings and taken to the air in some dead world of virtual things. If you like, it is an example of what Goethe would have described as the 'empirio-dogmatic torture chamber' of post Newtonian science.  

     And as we are speaking of variation here perhaps we should also mention some unusual behaviour which pertains to the Chevin but is not perhaps at all common elsewhere. Unlike other Green Hairstreaks enamoured of the sun, as we've pointed out but from a different angle, the butterfly can be seen flitting about the low growing bilberry tops here on very dull  (even somewhat cold days) in spring. Does stored reflecting heat from the limestone boulders which litter this hillside compensate sufficiently for the sun's rays? Moreover, the insect doesn't necessarily roost deep down in the bilberry roots its usual mode of seclusion in West Yorkshire but will roost under the fresh leaves of small oaks and birches somewhat like its southern counterpart. Even more remarkably, on the Chevin, the creature will seemingly break all roosting habits and remain right out in the open comotose on the top of a  twig of  bilberry - even during torrential thunderstorms.

      Perhaps its little details like these, pointing to  seemingly manifold differences, that also might help in accounting for the experimental diversity of these Pennine Hairstreaks which now thrive so splendidly here. If the butterfly is working out patterns of survival in terms of an on-going natural selection, it is doing so in utmost confidence. For anybody slowly becoming interested in the wiles of Lepidoptera there is much to be discovered.

      Our original text; 'Some Thoughts and Speculations on Green Hairstreak Varieties in West Yorkshire and its Borders' plus a more detailed follow up in December 2000, together with more precise, explanatory photographs, often in sequences, can be obtained from the authors.


THE RINGLET  (Aphantopus hyperantus)

  No doubt, as will be explained elsewhere in this book, the Ringlet, like the Small Skipper, Comma, Marbled White, Speckled Wood, Purple Hairstreak and the Gatekeeper, has enormously expanded  its range in Yorkshire over the last decade or so. However, it is the western expansion of this butterfly which intrigues us the most, particularly  one location where we have provisionally made - a necessarily on-going - photographic text called: 'Is there an enigma to the Ringlet butterfly colony in Ben Rhydding gravel pits in lower Wharefdale?.' Ben Rhydding is a kind of suburb of Ilkley in lower Wharfedale. The river Wharfe frequently floods here covering much of the flat land on either side of its low bank, including a number of gravel pits which fell into disuse sometime towards the middle of the last century. Subsequently, these water filled pits became an anglers' venue as well as a haven for an increasingly rich tableau of flora and fauna. Butterflies are no exception and Clouded Yellows (including the white helice form) and a singleton Marbled White have according to David Howson been seen here recently (the Marbled White most likely blown up river from the huge Brockadale colony near Wetherby and Pontefract about 14 miles down stream). However, what is so remarkable about this area is the enormous amount of variation to be found in both the Ringlet and Meadow Brown populations.

Ben Rhydding
Note faint dotting typical of ab: caeca, July 15th 2000, Ben Rydding, Ilkley gravel pits. The extent of variation in these pits (minus ab: lanceolota) next to  the river Wharfe - up to nearly 80% in the mid to late 1990s - has probably historically never been equalled.

Ben Rhydding
Underside of  ab: caeca Ringlet, July 18th 1999, Ben Rhydding gravel pits. Since these photographs were taken this isolated colony has lowly been slowly infiltrated by the south eastern Ringlet invaders and it would seem, variation has since diminished.

Ben Rhydding
Mating Ringlets, Ben Rhydding, July 26th 1996. A warm muggy afternoon. One is normal, the other, ab: caeca

      When faced with the seemingly endless plethora of variations amongst butterflies in West Yorks it is hardly surprising if a person is overwhelmed. How even to begin to make sense of it all? Every year, even season, brings with it an undermining or supercession of previously held views. The area is forever beckoning and one is caught up in a headlong race to find out more, to astonish and be astonished in turn.

       One feels the whole drama of modern biology is being played out in concentrated forms in front of our eyes. At every turn we are confronted with basic questions. What, for example, is the part played  by the 'founders effect' on the Ben Rhydding Ringlet population which, it seems came into existence in 1987 according to Wharfedale Naturalists records?  Rather than being a bridge too far (the colony has all the appearance of just hanging on) and related to the northern expansion of the Ringlet over the past 20 years, it now seems certain that it is an offshoot of the much bigger, nearby Lindley colonies whose existence was itself unknown until about the year 2000. The question then arises how long have these colonies been there and do they extend farther up the Washburn valley and beyond? And, importantly, are there yet to be discovered relic link colonies  dotted here and there in the Pennines which  might possibly have some ties with the long established aberrant colonies in Cumbria around Penrith and Carlisle which E B Ford investigated and could perhaps differentiate the Ben Rhydding  and perhaps, Lindley Wood colonies from the southern invaders pressing rapidly into the Pennines? Obviously, Ford was so intrigued by the Ringlet varieties in the old county of Cumberland that he accorded them special colour plates in his New Naturalist 'Butterflies' in the late 1940s.

       It would seem useful to investigate all marshy ground and grassy areas around reservoirs during July in and around reservoirs throughout West Yorks and neighbouring parts through to Cravendale, no matter what the elevation, to check for Ringlet. There's a distinct possibility that relic colonies of this butterfly may have persisted and latterly, have increased their numbers and possibly extended their range.

      After some rudimentary research, we contacted Steve Doyle from Milnthorpe, Cumbria as he keeps a regular eye on aberrant Ringlet colonies at Ive Gill between Penrith and Carlisle which contain a roughly 50/50% ratio of  ab: arete/caeca and normal specimens. These colonies, unlike Ben Rhydding, are not isolated  from other Ringlets - indeed exist continuously among them - and one occurs on a road bank side and yet they contain even more extreme aberrations especially the variety described in South's  'Butterflies' as ab: obsoleta - having no spots at all. Furthermore, it seems the aberration rate is proportionally, somewhat on the increase. Nevertheless, unlike Ben Rhydding, the colouring on Ive Gill Ringlets are typically velvety on emergence and not ashen like those among the Wharfeside gravel pits. Around the late 19th century and early 20th century, Tutt gave this northern variety the name obsoleta which he also applied to a nearby Mountain Ringlet variation where, like the Ringlet, the rings and black dots disappear and only a plain, blackish brown insect remains.

         In 1928, Ford Snr and Ford Jnr wrote an interesting article in 'The Entomologist' on Ringlet variations in Cumbria. It has been rather eclipsed by the ground breaking study of the Marsh Fritillary (1930) on a site presumably not far  from  the 'two or three restricted localities' (Ford op.cit.) of Ringlets in which the arete and caeca form were to be found. They note that the Ringlet 'is common in many parts of this district' and that of the 3000 specimens examined from the chosen sites only 4% to 5% were variations. As previously mentioned, the percentage in Ive Gill is now far higher (though it is not known for definite if this site was one of the two or three examined by the Fords) simply because Ive Gill hasn't been known about for very long. In Ben Rhydding variation is much higher. The article however, is exemplary for its detailing of the variations in the hind wing occelli and  could provide a basis for further research.

     For instance, it does appear that it is exceedingly rare to find a butterfly, according to the Fords, 'in which the typical is combined with the arete or caeca form' but they had a specimen 'in which the first three occelli (and those on the fore wing ) are boldly typical, while those  on the hind wing are particularly minute caeca points'. The specimens were grouped A.B.C.D.E., the latter being the true caeca variation in which the fore wing was 'almost invariably obsolete'. Though the Fords possessed specimens in which the caeca points were exceedingly minute, they had yet to find a Ringlet in which the points were completely obsolescent. However, this now may no longer be true.

       This article has been left to gather dust and probably the speculative conclusion that both father and son at one time thought the variation may have been due to under nourishment did not help. It certainly contrasts with the sophisticated analysis of the Marsh Fritillaries in Cumberland which gained a measure of fame in the 1930s, sufficient, at any rate, to attract the attention of Sewall Wright and a riposte from the populational mathematician, R A Fisher in its defence.

     It is possible the Ringlet variations defy strict codification and that the range of individual variation is greater and more continuous than initially realised with the intermediaries far more common than the arete at one extreme and the caeca at the other. A careful examination of the size of the occelli and count of numbers showing marked similarities could establish if there is a 'bell shaped curve' existing in Ben Rhydding and other sites.

      Whilst the  remarks which follow maybe too far fetched in terms of any satisfactory and essential scientific proof it is food for some kind of thought. The ashen colouring of the Ringlets and some of the Meadow Browns at Ben Rhydding struck one of us as not too dissimiliar to the smokey even smudged character of the distinctive Grassington Scotch Argus with its ill-defined spots and which  sadly died out in the mid 50s on that remarkable terrain where the wood almost magically peters out into the undulating, tree-absent, limestone pavement. Such comparisons though require a considerable dose of scepticism.

Caeca Ben Rhydding
Above: Ab caeca at Ben Rhydding gravel pits. Both photographs deliberately went out of their  way to emphasise the topography of this amazing ex-brownfield site which, in the early years of the 20th century was a hive of industry.

Caeca Ben Rhydding
Above: Another ab: caeca on the edge of the gravel pits where flows the river Wharfe. Once or twice a year ferocious floods engulf the former gravel workings.

      Moreover, we must look again at the evidence of history. In the 19th century, it seems there was a much greater Ringlet presence in Yorkshire than in most of the 20th century - possibly until the 1990s. South, writing in 1906, states that the Ringlet 'seems, however, to have disappeared from some districts in Lancashire and Yorkshire where it was formerly common'. If only we knew which districts and to be reminded of Herbert Spencer again, the sulphur content emanating from rising chimneys, was probably a major factor in the insect's disappearance in the Pennines (if indeed, there ever was one). The butterfly couldn't adapt unlike the melanic adaptation of the Peppered moth or that relatively unknown but strange form of the Northern Eggar - a creature badly affected by smoke pollution - recorded by Bill Collinson, the Halifax Lepidopterist in a colony nearby his home town in the 1960s. Moths emerged, 'which were almost transparent owing to extremely thin scaling particularly on the wing edge'. Oddly enough, Collinson found similar specimens on Ikley Moor in the mid 50s. Perhaps such specimens are in his collection still owned by his widow?.... but we digress.

     Interestingly though, in the Morley/Porritt collections in Huddersfield's, Tolson Memorial Museum, the Ringlets were mostly taken at Castle Howard (Morley's in 1890 and Porritt's in 1896). Even more interestingly,  the arete form or arete gradations are the predominant Ringlets in these Yorkshire specimens. In fact, the only other arete variant was from Yorkshire too taken by Porritt at Sandburn (geographically, not too far away) on July 14th, 1883. Moreover, Porritt also has a specimen of lanceolata from Castle Howard and captured the same time as the arete. (June 22nd to 27th,1896).

      On reaching the 20th century and especially upto the 1950s, we found a virtual paucity of Ringlet recordings not only for the Pennine foot hills but Yorkshire as a whole. Those Lepidopterists, Haxby and Briggs - bothy resident in the Horton area of Bradford - had little to contribute on the matter, which was surprising. In the C Haxby collection in Cliffe Castle museum Keighley, there is a caeca fom Strensall near York captured on the 26th of July 1951. However, the Ringlets in the J. Briggs collection are all from outside the county. There's an interesting aside to this, however. In thumbing through the, as yet, unfiled Wharfedale Naturalists records and kindly shown to us by Margaret Hartley at Cliffe Castle, we came across a note supplied by W. Barraclough of a Ringlet on Holly Hill, Low Moor, Bradford, on July the 25th, 1947. The particular butterfly had 'only one oscillated spot on the underside of the forewing, approaching var: obsoleta'. Haxby, later, has rather acidly scribbled below this: 'highly suspect ' no doubt a Jurtina (Meadow Brown) specimen.' Well, maybe?

      After this historical overview, perhaps though, a few words about the very much here and now Ben Rhydding colony itself might come in useful here. Probably, because of a succession of damp warm summers, the Ben Rhydding colony has expanded considerably. We would estimate that it is now easily five times the size it was in 1996, having expanded along the banks of the Wharfe between the river and sides of the ex-gravel pits proper and heading towards Burley in Wharfedale. Thick scrub is preventing the final conquest of land beyond the last, lake-filled gravel pit particularly suitable to this form of Ringlet.

       We don't have any hesitation in using  the term form. The range of variation in the Ben Rhydding colony is remarkable going from the reduced spotting of the arete form to their virtual disappearance in the caeca form. Incidence of variety is also high maybe even in excess of 50%. Again it would be instructive to tabulate the range of varieties in order to determine if there is a definite gradient between the arete and caeca form or if the variation is rather more haphazard and resistant to categorisation. A comparable question arises with the intermediate form of the Green Hairstreaks between the punctata and caecus.

     Fascinating as the phenolypic variations are among the Ben Rhydding  Ringlets, having observed over the years many Ringlet populations elsewhere, we came to the conclusion that there were subtle differences in the behavioural characteristics of the Ben Rhydding Ringlets. The lure of emotive language, with all its  dangers, best describes the almost fearful, timid nature of this inward looking - dare one say - 'neurotic' colony. Only once in the past four years have we seen a Ringlet approach to within 50 yds of the gate leading out of the ex-gravel pits onto the busy, A 625, road to Ilkley and the Lake District beyond. Generally, they prefer to stick within 30 yards of the Wharfe river bank only occasionally venturing forth a little. In contrast, the Wetherby populations, 14 miles to the east, whilst inhabiting the grassy margins by the Wharfe and even favouring, as a perch, the common sedge growing in, rather than by the side of the river, nevertheless are to be found in the hedge backs some distance across the fields from the Wharfe. In their journey up the Wharfe to Otley (some five miles east of Ben Rhydding and where the 'invaders' are now backing-up) it is possible that roads as well as the river bank served as a thoroughfare and so to that extent, their more adaptable behaviour more clearly resembles southern Ringlet populations.

      Frohawk, who had an unacknowledged gift for succinct characterisation, described the Ringlet as a  'peaceful butterfly' in contrast to, say, the 'wild careering flight' of the Dark Green Fritillary. In Italian, the popular name for the Ringlet is 'La Tristone' which is suggestive more of a sour, enveloping gloom than a mere mood swing. This vernacular name could well apply to the Ben Rhydding Ringlets.

      The highly unusual richness of variation in the Ben Rhydding Ringlets, coupled with their quirky behaviour, inevitably leads one to ask why? At this point questions start to pile up, which, even amid the inevitable speculative extravaganza always leads back to fundamentals. For instance, given the high incidence of variation, perhaps as high as 50/50 could we be faced with a situation resembling balanced polymorphism i.e. the normal form needs the variation as much as vice versa? And if one form were ever to gain complete dominance its disadvantages would outweigh the advantages causing the colony to wither at the root. If this is the case, then what selective advantage do the arete/caeca and in between gradients have over the normal forms and at what stage in the insects growth and at what point does it become disadvantageous'

     Those who are at all familiar with  the place will know the area is periodically submerged under a raging flood. Yet, miraculously every year the Ringlet continues to survive reasonably well  marginally even expanding its range. In the year 2000, the gravel pits were drowned under a foaming torrent when the Wharfe overflowed in late spring just at the moment the Ringlet caterpillar would be in their last instar and climbing high up in the grasses to feed. Could it be that in the larval stage the varieties are even more equipped to cope with such a catastrophe, an advantage that becomes a disadvantage if they are allowed to develop normally? Is it the case that the gene causing the variation is a multifactorial gene affecting several characters? Maybe it is even a chromosome linking up  with other bits during meiosis (the halving of the genetic compliment in the sex cells). And then we have to look towards the remarkable floods of autumn 2000 and see what they have in store next year? 

      So far so good. However, the discovery of Ringlets in Lindley Wood in the nearby Washburn valley changes the entire picture  given that in all reports, it is a highly variable population. Now we are back to the  'founders effect'.  Probably sometime in 1986, by chance, a female is blown off course by a strong north easterly wind carrying both the normal genetic load plus the arete/caeca abnormalities and ends up, after a bit of unprecedented hill climbing, a few miles way down in the lower Wharfedale gravel pits. Given that this place is destined for the moment to be a small population, the conditions are perhaps favourable to the survival, even quantitative increase of the aberration because the colony will be insulated from stabilising outside contact tending to the maintenance of a normal form or perhaps, given the Ive Gill experience in Cumbria, isolation may mean nothing at all. Selection pressures thus become a delusional construct over and against what actually happened.There is the end and nothing to explain.

     But from past experience we know that it is often at this point that the field naturalist begins to get the drop on the laboratory practitioner and pure theorist. The regular recurrence of the variation suggests that in the long run there is some purpose to the variation and that selection pressures are at work. At the turn of the last century as a result of the shockingly belated discovery of Mendel, Darwinism sank to its lowest ever ebb primarily due to the theories of 'mutational pressure' advanced by the notable botanist, Hugo de Vries, now primarily remembered for his unearthing of Mendel's forgotten classic written in 1861. The unimpeachable scientific core of Darwinism was choking under class bound, archly imperialist hogwash and whatever truth there was in the notion of the  'survival of the fittest' (a term popularised by T Huxley rather than the more hesitant Darwin) it was ceding ground rapidly to a notion of intrinsic biological superiority and brute voluntarism. The discovery of Mendel's theories merely added force to a pre-existing sentiment indicative of a biological demiurge. Hugo de Vries based his myth of the sudden emergence of new species on an erroneous interpretation of the capricious, deceptive changeability of the Wild Evening Primrose. Without clogging the text with  finicky detail suffice to say that after the success of De Vries' 'Mutation Theories' (1908) it took at least 40 years for the twin strands of genetics and natural selection to find common ground and to result in a synthesis which generally accepted that random mutation (Mendel) was constantly called to account by natural selection (Darwin).

     Faced with the phenomena of the Ben Rhydding /Lindley Woods Ringlets common sense whispers in one ear there is no sense and that to continue down this road is pure folly. There is a real risk here of neo-Paleyism: that everything in nature has an evolutionary point and forgetting that nature does not act by always producing the best solution. Unconsciously we often seek to improve on nature by looking for a cause that satisfies us. Thus we become latter-day evolutionary Platonists in search of a perfect idea behind a defective reality.

     But in the other ear another voice can be heard. People who have thought like this in the past have regularly been proved wrong and that the chief engineers of the synthesis - Julian Huxley, Chetverikov, E B Ford, Dobyhansky, etc were also dedicated field naturalists (e.g. when 76 years old, Chetverikov described a new species of butterfly in the Urals). Personally, we feel there is a point to the variation in the Lindley Wood/Ben Rhydding Ringlets if only we could read the book of nature. And there's the rub. For the moment, however, there are no convincing answers but rather than being a cause for despair we find ourselves eagerly awaiting the arrival of every spring in a state of greater preparedness.

       We have not carefully examined the invading Ringlets for signs of variation being chiefly preoccupied with plotting their whereabouts for the moment. However, we have yet to see an example of arete or caeca forms. Interestingly , in late June 2000, we scuffed up a Ringlet on a cool, overcast evening between Pool and Otley which turned out to have lanceolata related markings typical of southern populations. As a general rule arete and caeca forms are to be found in the north whilst lanceolata occurs more often in the south. No one has been able to offer any satisfactory explanation why. Yet David Howson in the same year photographed arete/ceaca and lanceolata forms around Lindley reservoir almost mirroring Porritt and Morley's experience at Castle Howard well over a century earlier.

       The immanent (?) Ringlet colonisation of the Pennine foothills and even farther into the Dales proper is indeed very patchy and confusing. To explain some of this dispersal pattern, it would seem necessary to take into account the sheer inhibiting factor of large towns and urban, waterside development spread along the rivers in West Yorkshire, particularly Leeds (for Airedale) and Wakefield (for Calderdale). A little more to the north of the industrial districts, there's generally a less interrupted flow which has allowed the butterfly to move up Nidderdale and to a lesser extent, Wharfedale. Consequently, further colonisation could take place by a kind of back door effect, perhaps sideways over fairly high ground? As we've suggested, there is indeed some kind of loose evidence that this has taken place already. Wakefield, surely must be the main reason why the Ringlet hasn't advanced along the beckoning, marshy verges beside the Calder through Horbury, Dewsbury, Mirfield and along to Cromwell Bottoms near Brighouse. Something of the same probably applies to the river Aire and the Leeds/Liverpool canal from Leeds to Shipley, Bingley and beyond.

THE MEADOW BROWN (Maniola Jurtina)
        The only other butterfly, apart from the Large Skipper, that is at all abundant in Ben Rhydding is the Meadow Brown. There is also a considerable range of variation amongst this species in the gravel pits - far more so than in the surrounding areas. The Meadow Brown is the most studied butterfly in  these islands but to our knowledge it has not been examined in relation to other species inhabiting the same area. In an article, 'The Ecological Genetics of Qualitative Characters of Maniola Jurtina (Meadow Brown) and other butterflies'(1984), P M Brakefield claimed to have found that three distinct species of butterflies (Meadow Brown, Small Heath and Gatekeeper) in a field near Liverpool displayed a common characteristic: increased variation in hind wing spotting. This selectional fine tuning is possibly at work in the Ben Rhydding Meadow Brown. In one striking instance we pursued what we took to be a Ringlet with decreased wing spotting, only to find, on closer examination, it was a male Meadow Brown. Apart from a similarity in colouration there was a distinct white border to the wings such as one finds in the Ringlet. It is easy to dismiss this as pure coincidence - a one off - but it is possible it had been selected and it remains to be seen if it reoccurs in future generations. Several butterflies do have white margins to the wings though it is noticeably almost absent amongst the Noctuidae moths. It is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Leaves often appear to have a white border where light directly strikes the leaf margin - and Ringlets love leafy lanes banked high with grass and thistles.

        Jurtina has the honour of being the most critically examined butterfly in these islands. The Ford/Dowdeswell studies have forever changed the status of this very common butterfly making it a creature of abiding interest. Never again will it be possible to write off minor variations in this butterfly as of no consequence. Where once there was mere random variation we now have to think along the lines of the fine tuning of natural selection and which is why we were so struck by the variation amongst the Meadow Browns in Ben Rhydding gravel pits where, as mentioned previously, there is also, a most unusual colony of Ringlets. Never previously had we encountered in one spot such wide variation amongst a butterfly which is in any case naturally subject to great variation. We can only offer our observations and not an explanation and what it was like 'as experienced observers' to temporarily mistake a male Meadow Brown with its wings open for a Ringlet. This was only possible because some Meadow Browns on this site display a prominent white border on both the lower and upper wings. Elsewhere, rudimentary though our observations are, the white border tends to be restricted to the upper side fore wings in particular to the dorsal areas. The overlap in Ben Rhydding was also more striking because the typically white border on the upper side of the Ringlet was rendered less visible because of the generally pale ash grey colour of the population contrasting with the dark chocolate brown colour typical of the insect in the lanes around Knaresborough and in the large Brockadale colony between Pontefract and Wetherby.

      We also found male forms with dark flashes across the upper side as well as pale forms  and females which on their upper sides resembled the Scottish splendida form (we can't say if the orange covered the upper kind as is the case in the splendida form). In addition to the colour range, there was also a notable difference in size ranging from the small to the large. In fact, we have only come across such 'small' Meadow Browns in the late emergence of the butterfly on the North Downs and which is apparently not that uncommon.



   Little is known about the mating proclivities of rare varieties like the alba form of the Small Copper simply because of their extreme rarity. But mate they must do from time to time and this raises critical questions on the modalities of mating behaviour and the degree of change in customary behaviour when an extreme variety mates.

         The blue female (ab: mariscolare of the Common Blue) which is to be found in Shipley station meadows and on other sites in West Yorkshire is an instance of this. The Common Blue, like some of its relatives amongst the Lycaenidae, is sexually dimorphic. The upper dorsal wings in the male are a steely blue whilst the female is a deep shade of brown fringed with a border of orange lunules. There is, however, a tendency for the female to change from brown to blue which only happens to one other species in this country. Its occurrence amongst the Adonis Blue (the semi-ceronus form) is, however, for more rare and linked to seasonal factors appearing much more commonly in the late spring emergence. In fact, it is doubtful if the shades of blue emanating from the thorax on the upper wings could qualify for  semi-ceronus status in the late summer emergence even though a similar mechanism must be involved. As yet however, there is no data on the incidence of the blue female amongst the Common Blue and if  seasonal factors have any influence.

     It is thought to be more common in the north than in the south and it would be interesting to find out if the semi-ceronus form of the Adonis Blue occurs more frequently at the limit of its range and is far rarer, or absent, in more continental climes. If so, then it is probable that temperature must be an important factor in pigment formation, both over-wintering as caterpillars and pupating roughly the same time.

       Interestingly, there are no blue females in the Morley/Porritt collection in the Tolson Museum in Huddersfield that had been taken locally in West Yorkshire. There was a beautiful series from Co. Tyrone in Ireland and the others tended to be much smaller and rather surprisingly came from southern England. (Brian Kane from Elland rather delightfully refers to the butterfly as 'the Irish Blue'). In fact, they could be described as dwarf specimens and to see dwarf Common Blue females on the North Downs is not that uncommon appearing to occur in all generations of the butterfly. Though we did manage to catch a glimpse of a normal sized  blue female in Brompton Rd cemetery  in the heart of London in August, 2000, we've yet to see a dwarf Common Blue female in the north. Possibly, it is due to some form of speeded-up development but if so, it is unlikely to be the result of a shorter feeding time on account of the weather. In that  case, one could expect to see it far more frequently in the north.

        Certainly, on Shipley station meadow the Common Blues are consistently of the same size. However, the number of females exhibiting some form of blue on their upper, dorsal, wings is strikingly high going from just a hint of a flush to a deep overall blue indistinguishable from the male except for the fringe of orange lunules. Of all the blue butterflies and  their varieties this must surely be the most beautiful.

       Much has been written about sexual diomorphism in butterflies, how it may have come about and its role in sexual selection. Fascinating though much of it is, no one appears to have examined how such an extreme colour switch from brown to blue may affect customary mating behaviour. Though males invariably initiate courtship, in most cases it is the female that has the final say in ways which have to be fully determined. This 'final  say' is probably responsible for keeping the males within definite recognisable boundaries with a change of colour causing it to resemble the female more closely, being unacceptable. In this most unusual circumstance how then does the male recognise this gender bender of a blue female from a distance' It is thought that the minutiae of colour pattern in butterflies such as the fringe of orange lunules (which, to us, is the icing on the cake of this stunning variety) is only recognisable close to at which point pheromonic attraction will probably begin to function.

      A close examination of this phenomena could add something to our knowledge of inter-sexual communication and where better to start than on Shipley station meadow. It is possible that territorial behaviour with the male buzzing what it takes to be another male encroaching on its turf, turns swiftly into courtship and flashing display once it has realised its mistake. And does this experience begin to affect its relations subsequently with other females so that, in future, it learns to hang back until it has established the sex of the intruder? However, it is important to bear in mind that there is a gradient in the blue female and that pure blue females are rare.

    Not only that, but these latter specimens could be at a sexual and selective disadvantage as the males when they display to either attract females or warn off competitors, must be more of a target for the birds than the drab females. Whatever further importance the males have as flower pollinators, once they have mated they have pretty much done their job. However, the females must then go on to lay their eggs hence their usually more cryptic colouration. That the blue females continue to appear year after year suggests that they have an edge the theory doesn't allow for.


      If Darwin is right in his claim that the female represents the ancestral form' - and that the male colour evolved differently over a considerable number of years then what we have here is maybe a (rare') instance of 'reverse' evolution. However, in his 'Descent of Man and selection in relation to sex' (1874), he also says, that when the sexes are alike, either the male has retained the ancestral colour (which implies a degree of dimorphism right from the start) or, the male colours have been adopted over time by the female. Through sexual selection and the females ability to pick and choose, evolution is held in greater check amongst males ' which is not to say it doesn't occur. However, apart from the odd pale form, variation in males tends to occur more on the hind, ventral wings.  



            Whether there has been an increase of this very rare variety in Yorkshire, never mind West Yorkshire, is a very moot point. It's unlikely that global warming has anything to do with it even if there has been. However, proliferation of derelict, brownfield sites  or urban land-locking of former open green spaces, probably has been a factor. It's enough to read the caption under the photograph illustrated here to get some idea.

      Although the photograph was illustrated in a Butterfly Conservation photographic competition a few years ago, the date and location of the variety was never supplied. This is absolutely essential, otherwise the photo lacks all scientific relevance and is nothing more than a nice, pictorial, consumer decoration not too dissimilar to the dead specimens in 19th century collections of colourful cabinets upon cabinets of butterflies without any kind of tabulation at the base of the pins holding the insects down.

                   Albino Meadow Brown

          Albino Small Copper. Bradford, W Yorks 1995                                       Albino Meadow Brown. Thorne, S Yorks 1997

   (Notes under the original Small Copper photo: The above photo was taken in late August 1997 in Brackenhill Park, Bradford 7. It shows a typical example together with the very rare albino variety, the "alba Tutt" which was only discovered in the early years of the 20th century.This albino was most likely a female as it was receiving much attention. Brackenhill Park lies in a dip between Gt Horton and Lidget Green in south Bradford. Not so long ago this area was a fairly extensive, slightly marshy piece of wasteland with the delightful and somewhat Blakian name of Paradise Green. It was rich in wildlife and the shallow ponds always contained frog spawn. From the early 1980s onwards, much of the wasteland has been utilised as commercial space for modern factory units. By way of guilty compensation (?) the green leftover area was remodelled with an eco image with a properly banked stream by-passing a curving concrete pond alongside sand covered paths etc. Ironically, because it is a tiny, self-conscious wilderness surrounded on all sides by factories, roads and housing, it is an ideal spot for the aberrant albino form of the Small Copper to reoccur. Having a weak, recessive gene, the albino form as outlined by the Lepidopterist E B Ford, only really develops in isolated populations. It is a beautiful variety so look out for it in spring and late summer.)


        Obviously these kind of roughly one-off varieties  are quite difficult to write about even though there is some evidence that they tend to reoccur on the same, usually isolated, sites. Therefore, whenever one is seen, it's worth pursuing for sometime in order to note it's behaviour. The one we photographed was definitely the centre of some kind of attention but was it being chased or being pursued for sexual reasons - it appears to have been a female - or both' Before photographing the alba, we saw one perfunctory attempt at mating on the ground of a narrow path.

       Brackenhill Park in Great Horton, Bradford 7-' and to reiterate some of the information supplied below the photo - is a somewhat isolated green area suitable to the occasional re-emergence of the alba Tutt. However, in this specimen there appears to be a variation within the variation. Notice the white spot on the right hind wing adjacent to the thorax. Usually the under wings of the alba are a very dark grey. Is the 'albino' becoming even more  of an albino and why?

     The only other alba Small Coppers we've seen from West Yorkshire are in John Armitage's mid to late 20th century collection in  Leeds Citry Museum. One, caught at Temple Newsam, on the 11th of August, 1982, is  the usual kind of albino; the other is a semi-albino where the white is confined to the right upper wing and was supplied to Armitage by Adrian Norris from Forge Valley in 1965.




      It is not really fair to include  Poulton amongst the generality of Lepidopterists in Britain in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was clearly influenced by Bates and behind him their looms the shadowy bulk of Darwin. He sought for instance, to give credible reasons for the existence of normal females of the African Swallowtails alongside the  'poisonous' mimics on the island of Madagascar. In its broad outlines Bates's theory did not allow for this. Poulton all but initiated the notion of shadow neutralization pointing to its presence in looper catterpillars and how stippling on the Purple Emperor chrysalis has a flattening effect so the chrysalis looks even more like a sallow willow leaf. In 1908, he wrote a paper on butterfly colouration which is still cited in the related literature.

    He also became convinced like Ray Lankester (another committed Darwinist) that August Weissman, the German biologist, was right to divide the issue of inheritance into germ and soma cells with the former carrying all the inheritable information thus helping prepare the ground for the discovery of Mendel. (In fact, all the cells carry the inheritable material in the nucleus even, arguably, in the diploid division of the nucleus in the sex cells). Figures like Poulton, Lankester and Weissman were the fore-runners of the 'great synthesis' which was only to take place several decades after their deaths. Weissman, incidently, was a butterfly enthusiast in his earlier days and it was he who drew attention to the function of the large life-like eyes on the underwing of the Eyed Hawk moth which when suddenly exposed can scare off a predator.

     Chetverikov was a seminal, underrated Russian biologist whose life was blighted by Bolshevikh reaction. He was also a passionate Lepidopterist which should stimulate our curiosity all the more. In fact, the more one reads about him, the more exemplary his insistence upon laboratory, theory and field work work becomes relevant to the study of wild populations like the present day, unprecedented movement of butterflies and moths into the Pennine region.

     Chetverikov began as a field naturalist and one cannot but reflect the prestige of natural history in Russia, at that time, owed something to the mainly 19th century populist, back to the land, Narodnik movement without, however, the independence of natural history pursuits becoming lost to view. This grotesque mutation was to be Stalin's achievement, backed-up by the fraudster, Lysenko. Tellingly, in the famous encounter in Mexico between the Surrealist, Andre Breton and Leon Trotsky - and which was so redolent of future developments but only in so far as the twin fetters of art/politics was snapped - Breton was cock-a-hoop to find Trotsky was also captivated by butterflies. Harking back to Trotsky's formative years in the 19th century, the butterflies could also have conveyed a warning not to interfere in enquiry which the Bolshevikhs were even more adept at than the worst days of Czarist oppression.

    A convinced Darwinist, Chetverikov nevertheless immediately took to genetic theory and, answering the call of the wild, maybe as a riposte to Morgan and his co-workers in 'the Fly Laboratory', began to seek for evidence of mutation in the field. He was delighted to have his supposition regarding the amount of concealed variation in wild populations confirmed. Complex though his arguments are at this point, he emphatically insisted; 'the complete replacement of a gene by a better adapted one always proceeds to an end ' - no  matter how negligible the initial incidence of a gene - 1% even, it might appear. It is hard to imagine Sergei dismissing the variation among the Ben Rhydding  Ringlets as beautiful but irrelevant.

    Chetverikov, although not independently, developed an interactive notion of genetic structures as against the prevailing one of a mosaic of independent genes each coding for a single character, later dubbed 'bean bag' genetics. His paper was translated into English and was available in Haldane's laboratory, if no where else, and where, in all probability, E B Ford read it. No where in Ford's books on  butterflies and moths does he specifically mention pleiotropy, a term coined by  Morgan to denote the effect of a gene on several components of the phenotype. Nor does he mention Chetverikov by name but one detects the presence of his concept of interactive genes even if Ford cannot unequivocally admit to it. However, his frankest admission is to be found on a beautiful colour plate illustrating -'guess what! - the Cumberland arete varieties of the Ringlet, entitled significantly, 'multi factorial inheritance '.