Butterflies and moths have many things in common.
The main differences are that most butterflies fly in the daytime, whereas moths tend to fly at night, and butterflies are typically larger and have more colourful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-coloured wings.
Moths have a frenulum, which is a wing-coupling device. Butterflies do not have frenulums. Frenulums join the forewing to the hind wing, so the wings can work in unison during flight.
The easiest way to tell the difference is that a butterfly’s antennae are club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb at the end. A moth’s antennae are feathery or saw-edged.
See also our Moths page.
There is an area in the grounds of Alexandra Park, on the South Slope, which we call the Butterfly Meadow.
This area, just north of the lower road, is rich in knapweed and other plants which attract butterflies, but over the past two years brambles and tree saplings have smothered the grassy spaces. This area is also remarkable for the many ant hills that can be seen.
Butterflies and ants have an inter-dependent (symbiotic) relationship, and ants need warmth (from sunlight) to thrive. To enable the maximum sunlight to fall on this area, the Friends are endeavouring to keep it clear of brambles, overhanging branches of shrubs, and trees.
The larva of the Large Blue butterfly secretes pheromones that induce the red ant Myrmica sabuleti to carry it underground into the ant's nest.
For the rest of it's life, the larva eats ant grubs. The ants obtain a sugary substance from the dorsal "honey gland" of the larva. The larva hibernates, and later pupates in the ant's nest.
The butterfly emerges from the pupa and uses another pheromone to appease the ants, then crawls along the ant tunnels to reach the surface.
Working Party on the Butterfly Meadow, May 2014
A Working Party continued to clear some of the brambles and saplings that are threatening to take over this valuable habitat.
We counted ten different species of trees, all trying to overwhelm the area.
We removed a considerable amount and were very grateful to pause half way through our session for a cool drink.....
Clearing the brambles in March 2014
In mid-March, 2014, about ten Friends of the Park gathered to tackle the growth with secateurs and loppers, and tough gloves. A couple of hours' steady work produced some satisfying clearance, with the debris collected into one of John O'Connor's trailers.
Clearing saplings and brambles in March 2012
Friends of Alexandra Park cleared saplings and brambles in the Butterfly Meadow, in March 2012.
The following butterflies have been spotted in the grounds of Alexandra Park: