The Large Blue
The Large Blue is not just our rarest butterfly, it is also a living example of how conservation measures can successfully stop species from disappearing for good. The Large Blue was officially declared extinct in the UK in 1979. It is only through our work with our partners, involving careful research, targeted habitat management and a very successful reintroduction campaign, that we are able to enjoy this beautiful butterfly today.
The Large Blue has very specific habitat requirements and an extremely complex life cycle. The caterpillars of this species feed on Wild Thyme and Wild Marjoram but plants are not the only nourishment they require. Large Blue caterpillars disguise themselves as ant grubs in order to trick a particular species of red ant into carrying them into their underground nests, where they feed on the ant grubs before pupating.
Currently 80% of Large Blue colonies can be found in Somerset, but we are optimistic that the Large Blue can return in good numbers to the Cotswolds, where the butterfly thrived before its extinction.
Large Blue butterflies have been reintroduced to the Painswick Valley but until they are able to increase their numbers the species remains vulnerable. Additional conservation work is needed to help this butterfly re-establish itself as a common sight in the rolling Cotswolds hills.
The Duke of Burgundy
This small springtime butterfly has suffered from widespread national declines, with a 62% loss of colonies since 1980. The South West of England supports 42% of the remaining colonies and over half of these lie within the Cotswolds.
Although the Cotswolds is a stronghold for the species, the Duke of Burgundy’s future in the region is still under threat. The butterfly cannot survive on sites where scrub and trees become overgrown and supress the caterpillar foodplants. Urgent conservation work to clear vegetation and create new sheltered habitats is required to secure its future.
This work will strengthen existing populations of the Duke of Burgundy, encourage new colonisation and prevent further declines. A number of other butterfly species including Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Small Blue and Adonis Blue will also benefit from these enhancements to the landscape, along with a variety of other wildlife including endangered reptiles like the Adder and plants like the scarce Musk Orchid.
Butterfly Conservation has developed a project that will build upon the successes already achieved in the Painswick Valley network. In partnership with other organisations in the area we aim to restore the limestone grassland habitats to provide the plants and conditions that our butterflies need in order to breed and increase their numbers to a sustainable level.
This project will:·
- restore four hectares of grassland, across nine sites, through scrub cutting, fencing and tree thinning
- expand breeding areas for the Large Blue and Duke of Burgundy by increasing the availability of the caterpillar food plants,Wild Marjoram, Wild Thyme and Cowslip
- conduct habitat assessments, including ant, foodplant and butterfly monitoring to inform future management
- boost populations of the Large Blue butterfly through conservation work following population and habitat assessments
- deliver workshops for volunteers and landowners, training local people in butterfly monitoring, to ensure the work of the project can continue into the future.
Your support will:
- fund a Project Officer to co-ordinate the project, including organising workshops and work tasks, species surveys and overseeing habitat management works
- allow employment of contractors to undertake specialist conservation work on the project sites
- cover the cost of caterpillar foodplants for the Duke of Burgundy and Large Blue
- help train volunteers to ensure the ongoing sustainable management of the site once the project has ended.
Please protect the beautiful butterflies of the Cotswolds.
This project is supported by Biffa Award, The Mackintosh Foundation, Summerfield Charitable Trust, Butterfly Conservation Gloucestershire Branch, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Upton St Leonards Parish Council, Cranham Common Trust, Painswick Golf Club, Painswick Beacon Conservation Group, University of Oxford and private landowners.