The Camberwell Beauty is a rare migrant to the British Isles, originating in Scandinavia and mainland Europe. In some years there is a relatively-large influx of individuals, as occurred in 1846, 1872, 1947, 1976, 1995 and 2006, where individuals were reported throughout the British Isles. Like many migrants, this butterfly does not maintain a sustainable breeding population here since mating only occurs after hibernation and those adults that do manage to overwinter successfully are so few in number that the chances of finding a mate is small. None of the immature stages has ever been found in the wild in the British Isles.
The Aurelian by Moses Harris, published in 1766, gives this butterfly the name "The Grand Surprize" or "Camberwell Beauty", based on 2 individuals that were caught in Cold Arbour Lane near Camberwell in 1748. In America, this butterfly is known as the Mourning Cloak. Although there have been sightings from many parts of the British Isles, most records are from eastern counties.
This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden, America).
Photo © Nigel Venters
Although the adults have been seen in every month of the year, immigrants start to arrive in June and July, with a definite peak of sightings in August and September. Some of these adults go into hibernation and are sometimes disturbed from their hibernation site, such as a log pile or outbuilding. A small proportion of hibernating adults survive until the following year. This happened quite recently when several individuals from the 2006 influx were seen in early 2007. There is one brood each year.
This butterfly is a great wanderer and is often seen in gardens feeding on rotting fruit, such as plums. The same individual will often remain in the same location for several days. In the spring the adults will feed from sallow flowers and sap runs.
The primary larval foodplants are Elms (various) (Ulmus spp.), Poplars (various) (Populus spp.) and Willows (various) (Salix spp.).
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This is a distinctive butterfly, even in flight, as the white wing borders are unmistakable. The adult is a solitary insect and, as such, migrates singly rather that in the swarms associated with other migrant species.
Description to be completed.
Eggs are laid in clusters around a twig of the foodplant. The size of the clusters varies considerably and may contain any number of eggs, usually between 30 and 250.
Larvae feed gregariously but disperse just prior to pupation, where they may travel quite some distance.
The pupa hangs upside-side attached by its cremaster to a leaf stem or twig. This stage lasts around 3 weeks.
No similar species found.
No sites found.
This species is a rare migrant and no conservation action is relevant.
The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.
The species description provided here references the following publications:
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