The wide range of habitats within the Isle of Wight, its southerly location, and its climate, all help to give an enormous range to its insect life, and make it the best place in the country to view a number of species.
When weather conditions are favourable, large numbers of migratory species may be seen, these included an influx of Painted Ladies in February 2005. As well as butterflies, such as Clouded Yellow, and moths including the Silver-y, the sudden arrival of dragonflies and hoverflies can also be very striking.
New species such as the Small Red-eyed Damselfly are regularly being added to the island’s list, while other species are in serious decline. These changes underline the importance of the recording work carried out by the Society’s members, and by visitors to the island, whose records are welcomed.
Over the years the Isle of Wight has been the home of a number of famous entomologists. Of these the name of Dr K.G.Blair is one of the best known. Retiring from his post at the British Museum (Natural History) he moved to the Island in the 1940’s. He gave his name to three species of moth, two of which, Blair’s Wainscot and Blair’s Shoulder Knot were first recorded in this country near his home, in the parish of Freshwater, at the western tip of the Island. He also found the first British example of the Long-winged Conehead, a bush-cricket, when exploring the cliffs on the south side of the island.
These soft cliffs provide the habitat for a wide range of species, including the Glanville Fritillary, the emblem of the Society. This is the most famous of all the Island’s insects, and the Isle of Wight, with the Channel Islands, is its stronghold in the country. It is to be found in May and early June, feeding on nectar from flowers such as Bird’s foot Trefoil. Ribwort Plantain is the foodplant of the caterpillar. The plantain is a rapid coloniser of the bare soil which results from the many landslips in this area.
Another localised species for which the Isle of Wight is well-known is a moth called the Reddish Buff, which favours Saw-wort in a handful of sites on the north side of the island. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, partners with the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, and the Wight Nature Fund, through Wight Wildlife, have reserves on the Island which help to protect the habitat for this species, together with the home of other local insects such as Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Field Cricket.