Last week I needed some head space so MrB suggested we went for a short stroll on Stockbridge Down, a chalk downland a few miles from our home. As you may recall from earlier posts this has become a favourite of ours especially when I am feeling kinda down. As always it worked its magic on me. Not only were there blue skies, but the grasslands were looking fabulous.
And it wasn’t just the flora that was capturing our attention. To my delight there were hundreds of butterflies, nearly all one species, the Chalkhill Blue. It is probably the largest blue butterfly that most of us will see in England, as the Large Blue whilst larger is incredibly rare. The Chalkhill Blue however is widespread on chalky grasslands in southern England.
The butterflies we saw were mostly male although we did spot a couple of females, which are brown and very secretive. It was the behavior of the males that caught our attention, they were congregating in groups on animal dung.
Apparently “mud-puddling”, as it is sometimes called, is a way for the butterflies to gain moisture and minerals. The extra nitrogen and sodium is scarce in nectar, and these minerals are hugely beneficial to reproduction. They are not the only butterfly to seek out minerals in this way, and some even feast on the sweat of the humans. Male Chalkhill Blues however prefer dung. I have created a video I took of them ‘mud puddling’.