Exotic butterflies and moths migrate to southern England

Clifden nonpareil moth Clifden nonpareil was first recorded in Clifden, Buckinghamshire

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Exotic butterflies and moths from the continent are colonising in Britain.

Increasing numbers are being drawn to southern England from north Africa and Europe after a spell of hot summer weather and a warm autumn, experts say.

European long-tailed blue butterflies have been spotted in Wiltshire, Kent and Sussex.

Rare moths including the Clifden nonpareil and rosy underwing have appeared in southern counties including Dorset and Hampshire.

Dorset-based moth recorder Les Hill has spotted three Clifden nonpareil moths in the past two weeks in the same part of south Dorset.

He described the insect, known for its bright flash of blue on its wings, as being on "every moth recorder's wish list".

Rosy underwing moth The rosy underwing moth had only been recorded 10 times in Britain before this summer

"As the name nonpareil states, it is peerless and has no equal," he said.

"To record one in a lifetime is the fulfilment of an ambition. To record them every year in my garden is just remarkable."

'Tantalising prospect'

Butterfly Conservation spokesman Richard Fox said the sightings were "very exciting news".

"The hot summer enabled long-tailed blues and other migratory butterflies to spread northwards into Britain, capitalising on opportunities to breed here while the weather remains warm," he said.

The charity said the large rosy underwing moth had only been recorded on 10 occasions in Britain before this summer and recent sightings raised the "tantalising prospect that the moth is now locally resident".

Experts have not seen such high numbers of this delicately-patterned moth entering the UK for half a century.

Higher than average numbers of the exotic crimson speckled moth have also been recorded along the south coast.

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