No one has mentioned Forester's account that L. virgaureae was common at Warrington in Lancashire. Do we then believe that John Woodland was not telling the truth when he said he took L. virgaureae in the Somerset Marshes. Surely, sightings made by very distinguished naturalists should be taken seriously and these are just as important as specimens. Anyone can add false data to their specimens. If these sightings were migrants ,they would all have occured on the east or south coast of England, yet there is only one specimen reported in 1878 from this region. Perhaps L. virgaureae was once more widespread. It is hard to believe that L. virgaureae flew across the North sea and ended up in Western England. Why should John Woodland not be telling the truth, he was after all a Justice of the Peace and a respected member of his community. Woodland had nothing to gain by falsifying his account, why would he have. Yes, there were many fraudulent specimens of L. virgaureae in Britain during the 19th century, just like today, nothing has changed, there are dealers that you can trust and just as many which you can not. The lure of money has been responsible for a large amount of untruth regarding entomology both historical and modern day. Yes, there are a lot of genuine specimens of L. dispar in collections from the Mid-19th century. There are a lesser amount of L. virgaureae in British collections but perhaps this species was in a major decline before the entomologists were in the field. Who can say what the British butterfly fauna was like before the first Aurelians. Perhaps, long before there were entomologists recording their captures, L. virgaureae was found in all of lowland Europe, Holland, France and Belgium and England. Perhaps, there was a climatic change in Europe that did not suit L. virgaureae.
In the recently discovered Bree collection, with specimens from three members of different generations of that family See www.dispar.org/reference.php?id=103 there were two specimens of L. virgaureae with provenace of their history.
This article also mentions that one specimen of L. virgaureae was given to C.A. Briggs , which was taken by his uncle, The Reverend W.T. Bree in Britain. The Reverend William Thomas Bree was a very distinguished all round naturalist who contributed to many scientific journals and was a correspondant of Darwin.
W.T. Bree's son, the Reverend William Bree later a Archdeacon, also stated to C.A. Briggs that he had taken L. virgaureae in Britian. The Author of the above paper M. Mead-Briggs, a direct descendant of C.A Briggs thought that the old female specimen in the collection was W.T Bree's and the better male specimen is his son's and may have been taken on his trip to the fens in search of dispar.
Michael in personal communication said to me , " if you cannot believe a Archdeacon who can you believe".
In the field magazine for 1892, E. L. Layard then of Budeigh Salterton in Devon stated that he collected L. virgaureae with L. dispar at Yaxley Fen around 1841. The article was reproduced in the entomologist for that year.
It seems E.L Layard late wife was also a very lucky collector for she took the very rare and beautiful migrant moth Utetheisa pulchella and an unlucky one, when she was chasing Colias butterflies across the sandy Breckland heaths , she was bitten by an adder.
In the same volume Charles G. Barrett, author of the ' The Lepidoptera of the British Islands ' remained unconvinced, his criticism of Layard's account seems quite unfair see
Barrett seems to have believed that Layard was then a novice, because the author of the article mentioned the habitat at Yaxley was gone and the foodplant of the rare flies ( A abbreviated name once used for butterflies and Moths by some early Aurelians) had disappeared. Although the dock Rumex hydrolapathum may have survived some of the earlier drainage ditches in this area, Layard was quite right, the habitat had gone along with the rarities they contained.
It is interesting to note, that Barrett mentions the foodplant of L. virgaureae was the Golden Rod Solidgo virgaurea, hence the butterflies poor scientific name. In fact on the continent this butterfly utilizes a number of Rumex species. Barrett suggested that Layard mistook L. virgaureae for L. dispar, he certainly would not as he said he caught it in his net, he could not have failed to notice the very different underside.
So who was E.L Layard, well it seems that he was a very distinguished Naturalist and a colonial officer in Ceylon and South Africa . He was also a curator of a museum of Natural History in South Africa and he is known to have corresponded with Charles Darwin. For more information on this naturalist see here
Having L. dispar flying together WITH L. virgaureae makes no sense at all to me. I am interested if anybody (alive) has ever witnessed such, but I doubt it. I don't have much time to comment, but the Solidgo virgaurea is just copying Linné's text which doesn't make sense either. Just like the name of Thecla betulae.
I believe we must be careful here, the L. virgaureae population? perhaps flying in the U.K? during the early part of the 19th century may have fed upon perhaps one species of Rumex, just as L. dispar dispar and batavus does. Comparing European populations of those Lycaena , especially those at altitude may not provide any answers. All the reliable records of virgaureae in Britain come from marshes, fens and mosses and they were provided by some pretty distinguished people. There are a number of references that L. virgaureae occurred at the dispar locality Yaxley Fen. Again, I must point out that Papilio machaon brittannicus as a very good example of an island population occurring in a different ecological area to the rest of Europe.
Although I would be very interested to know if L. dispar rutilus occurs with L. virgaureae in any localities. Subspecies rutilus occurs in a variety of different wet habitats and is not confined to fens as the extinct L. dispar dispar and L. dispar batavus.
Due to copyright reasons I cannot reproduce the maps for South Western Germany, but you can see that the distribution of both species are excluding each other. Lycaena dispar rutilus is a species of the "wet" lands of the plains, while Lycaena virgaureae is confined to the hilly areas, in my case the black forest.
Speaking about the occurrence of both in Great Britain is probably a prime example for people unfamiliar with the species. They will see a smaller Lycaena dispar (which is very variable in wing span) and conclude that this must be Lycaena virgaureae, a species which they probably never saw, or they saw them in books that confused both species themselves.
It seems from a post from grezegorb, L. dispar rutilus does fly with L. vigaureae in Poland in meadows with other Lycaena species he wrote
"Yes , I live in Poland and many species that are legends in WE in Poland are massive . For example - 20 km from Warsaw in one place in the meadow summer L. dispar , L.helle , L. phlaeas , L.virgaureae , L. tityrus . In addition, the mass M. and M. nausithus teleius . It is not a national park - just ordinary meadow"