The Government is studiously avoiding the “D” word, despite several weeks with no rain. But my definition of drought is simpler. Purple Hairstreaks are butterflies that normally live most or all of their lives at the very tops of tall oak trees. For the last week or so I’ve seen them at ground level. While this is a wonderful opportunity to see these difficult-to-watch and very beautiful butterflies, the reason you can see them is that their normal foodstuff – honeydew, the sweet excretion of aphids – has dried up in the relentless sun. The Hairstreaks are desperately seeking both moisture and food, and as a result they are scouring the ground for the faintest hints of moisture. Not only that, but as the butterflies descend, the dragonflies do as well – I’ve seen several hunting just a foot or so off the ground.
While all of this is good news for people who like to see butterflies and dragonflies, it’s bad news for the insects themselves. As the drought continues, fewer are surviving and fewer are laying eggs. And that means that next year we may see very few of these beautiful creatures at all. So get out there and see them while the sun shines and you still can