Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - June 1984
The fragile-looking; Wood White Butterfly is a species that I have never seen in spite of many years searching. It was interesting therefore to read in the 1961-62 issue of the 'Carmarthenshire Antiquary' a general article on the natural history of the county, in which tile author, a Mr. John Brunker, deals mostly with some birds and insects of special interest o He too recognised the rarity of the Wood White, stating that, "one may search for years for this frail butterfly" and he mentions that he knew of a small colony of this desirable insect. A continuation of this article (in a later issue of the Carmarthenshire Antiquary) gives two localities: "on the limestone ride, Porthyrhyd 1915" and an undated "lanes between Kidwelly and Pontyates".
Interest is added to the article by the fact that Brunker knew T.W. Barker (who wrote the "Natural History of Carmarthenshire" in 1906) and had conversed with him on the subject of the Wood White. Barker told how ... "that he had seen very few specimens of this very delicate butterfly".
The wood White is an insect of light woodland or heavily-timbered hedgerows and lanes where thick growth of hawthorn, blackthorn and other bushes provides a suitable microclimate for it. The species has declined greatly in Britain during this century; and it may be that it does not occur any longer in our area. Its food plants (Dennis 1973) are various Leguminosae – Lathyrus montanus, Lathyrus pratensis, Lotus corniculatus & Vicia cracca (peas, trefoils and vetches). In this respect it differs greatly from the other 'Whites' - Large, Small, Green-veined and Orange Tip which all food on various Cruciferae (Cabbage, Wallflower, Cress family) - hence the reason for the Large and Small Whites being pests on garden cabbages. Do not confuse the Wood White with the Green-veined White which also is found in damp woodlands, it is far more robust and has, of course, green-veined undersides.
It may be that we are not searching; the correct habitat for the Wood White in Carmarthenshire, paying too much attention to already-recognized rich insect sites. We tend therefore to neglect the damp wooded lane-shaded hedgerow-type habitat where this species may be found. We shall search in 1984, but even if it is re-found, it must remain a scarce butterfly in Carmarthenshire.
Of interest to those who study dragonflies is the reference by Brunker to tie rare Club-tailed Dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus), as "very local but specimens have been taken from time to time in the county". Barker himself mentions it as occurring "near Cwmffrwd"; it likes slow-moving rivers (as perhaps the river at SN4117)? Another rare dragonfly - unrecorded in recent years - in VC44 noted by Brunker is Aeshna grandis (Brown Hawker) as occurring near Carmarthen. He also states that the much commoner Libulella quadrimaculata is found at Llanllwch and that Cordulegaster annulatum (= boltonii) is common, (as it is today) .