The High Brown Fritillary is confined to just a handful of scattered locations in the west of the UK. But the opening of Butterfly Conservation's Myers Allotment nature reserve in Morecambe Bay could help secure the future of this rapidly declining butterfly. Myers Allotment is Butterfly Conservation's first formal reserve in North West England and is the first specifically for the butterfly.
High Brown Fritillaries are large, golden-orange butterflies, but in order to thrive they need specific habitats. Monitoring by Butterfly Conservation has revealed the fritillary does best in areas with fresh clearings that provide warmth needed by its caterpillars and wide woodland corridors enabling the adults to move from site to site.
The Myers Allotment reserve is attractive to High Brown Fritillaries and other rare species such as the Northern Brown Argus and the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, as it boasts areas of limestone pavement habitat, fine, flowery grassland and violet-rich bracken.
The reserve is already home to a small population of High Brown Fritillaries and it is hoped that numbers will continue to rise as the Myers Allotment site becomes established.
Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation Surveys Manager said: "The High Brown Fritillary is one of the most highly threatened of British butterflies. It was once found in woodlands across England and Wales, but has undergone a catastrophic decline and is now found at only around 35 sites."
The butterfly is on the verge of extinction in Wales where there is only one remaining colony.
Morecambe Bay is now the UK stronghold for the species with the Myers Allotment reserve forming a vital cog in the long-term conservation plans for the butterfly in the UK. The seven-hectare site is leased from the Leighton Hall Estate which owns other important conservation sites in the area.
Butterfly Conservation Project Officer, Martin Wain said: "The Forestry Commission have been very helpful in setting up a Woodland Improvement Grant. This will help us to manage the woodland over the next five years. We hope to establish a network of woodland corridors, glades and coppice areas that will benefit butterflies as well as a wide range of wildlife."