I am a complete butterfly nut, and the Isle of Wight was where all this started for me. The downlands in summer (though not June, which is commonly known as the June gap among butterfly folk) is usually alive with the tiny jewel-esque wings of the adonis and chalkhill blue, and the large and impressive dark green fritillary.
However, there is one species which is famously restricted in its range to a few places on the under cliffs in the Isle of Wight's south: the Glanville fritillary. The treacherous and dynamic geology of this area creates the ideal conditions for this heat-loving insect – south-facing sun traps and wild, unfettered, flower-rich grassland, in which caterpillar food plants can thrive. The Glanville fritillary can, during good years, be spotted fluttering around Sudmoor, on the Mottistone Estate, from May until June.
Its caterpillars – which are rarely sought with the same passion but are just as interesting – can be found clustered on the leaves of its food plant (ribwort and buck’s horn plantain) in spring and late summer. This is when the spiky, black and silver caterpillars with orange head capsules can be seen feeding in twinkling clusters.
If you're wondering what gives the Glanville fritillary its mouthful-of-a-name, the butterfly was named after Lady Eleanor Glanville – an entomologist in the 17th century, notably a time when butterfly watching was largely a male pursuit.