Royal Mail will release a Butterflies set of 10 stamps on July 11, with delicate and detailed illustrations by Richard Lewington depicting these beautiful creatures to stunning effect.

The 10 species chosen are a mix of the endangered and the common, but three-quarters of species are in decline in the UK. The Big Butterfly Count, an annual nationwide survey, takes place from July 20–August 1, just after the issue       comes out.

The stamps were designed by Marc&Anna, and printed in litho by Cartor in se-tenant strips of five.

The only previous time that Royal Mail issued a set of stamps entirely devoted to butterflies was in 1981. Although this set resembles the Endangered Species issues of 2007-10, and especially the set which featured insects (including two butterflies) in 2008, it is not part of that series.

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH 
This is firmly a thematic set, but at least Royal Mail hasn’t supped from this particular plant for three decades

QUALITY OF DESIGN  
The detail you can see in the artwork for this issue is absolutely stunning

WOW FACTOR  
To the casual eye, will these stamps just look like standard fare in the populist butterfly theme?

1st class Comma, Polygonia c-album
Named after the small white comma-shaped mark on the underside of its wings, this butterfly eats hops, nettles, elms and blackcurrant, and its habitat is open woodland and gardens in southern England. Its population crashed at the end of the 19th century but recovered from around 1930.

1st class Orange-tip, Anthocharis cardamines
The male’s distinctive orange wing-tips give this species its name. It has spread more widely in the British Isles in the past 30 years, including into Scotland and Ireland. The females lay eggs in the flower-heads of plants which contain glucosinolates, such as cuckooflower and garlic mustard.

1st class Small copper, Lycaena phlaeas
This copper-coloured butterfly can be found across southern England, the Midlands and Wales, but doesn’t favour the north. Its habitats include chalk downland and heathland, where it feeds mostly on sorrel and other docks.

1st class Chalkhill blue, Polyommatus coridon
As the name suggests, this species favours chalk downland, which restricts it largely to southern England. Males have pale silvery-blue wings while females are dark brown, in both cases with black and white borders. Their larval foodplant is horseshoe vetch.

1st class Swallowtail, Papilio machaon
The UK’s largest resident butterfly has yellow wings with black vein markings and a red spot near the tail, but it is the protruding tail itself which gives it its common name. Although widespread in Europe, in the UK it is limited to a few areas of the Norfolk Broads, where it is a protected species.

1st class Purple Emperor, Apatura iris
All adults in this species have dark brown wings with white bands and a small orange ring, but the males are notable for their iridescent purple-blue sheen. They eat honeydew secreted by aphids, sap from oak trees, dung and animal carcasses, and their habitat is mostly reduced to oak woodlands in Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex.

1st class Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia
Usually found in damp, heathy grasslands in south-west England, this species is in decline. Attempts to revive it have focused on grazing with cattle, which clear the grass without nibbling away at the butterfly’s food sources such as buttercups and thistles. The adult has a checkered marking of gold and brown on a black background.

1st class Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni
Named after its sulphur-yellow colouring, this species might also have given us ‘butter-fly’ as the name of its entire order. Widely distributed across southern England, it is one of the first butterflies to hatch in spring (sometimes as early as January) and its larvae feed on common buckthorn or alder buckthorn.

1st class Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta
This familiar red, brown, black and white butterfly can be found throughout the British isles, and is often one of the last to be seen before winter sets in. The caterpillar feeds on nettles, the adult on flowering plants such as buddleia and ivy, and overripe fruit.

1st class Marbled White, Melanargia galathea
Unmistakable due to its black and white markings, this species is a common sight in unimproved grasslands across southern Britain, favouring forest clearings and meadows. The larvae feed on grass, the adults on thistles, clover and knapweed.

OTHER PRODUCTS
The illustrator of the stamps, Richard Lewington, also wrote the presentation pack, which has more drawings by him and by Hennie Haworth. A first day cover and stamp cards are also available.

A retail stamp book contains four 1st class Machin definitives and one each of the chalkhill blue and comma stamps, in self-adhesive guise. 

PRICES

Set of 10 stamps  £6.00
Presentation pack £6.50
Stamp cards £4.50
First day cover £7.68
Retail stamp book £3.60
TOTAL £28.28