A wildlife charity is encouraging Somerset schoolchildren to come face to face with the UK’s rarest butterfly this summer.
Butterfly Conservation (BC) is hosting a free family festival in Somerton on Thursday 31 May, to celebrate the start of the flight season for the Large Blue butterfly.
The globally endangered Large Blue became extinct in the UK in the 1970’s, but thanks to an innovative project involving BC and many other partners, the butterfly can be found on a number of sites across the south west.
BC’s Large Blue Project Officer, Sarah Meredith, said: “The Large Blue was reintroduced to Somerset around 26 years ago and the county is now one of the best places in the UK to see this rare butterfly - but so many people living here don’t realise that.
“The festival will be a chance to inspire a younger generation about their local wildlife and to teach them about the Large Blue, its amazing relationship with ants and what they can do to help the butterfly thrive in Somerset for years to come.”
Sarah added: “We already have a number of local schools taking part in fancy-dress and mask-making competitions on the day. Pollinator-friendly plants will be handed out to families and the children will learn how to grow their own caterpillar gardens.
“There will also be a chance to go on a guided butterfly walk to see the habitat of the Large Blue and other butterfly species in the area.”
The Large Blue can be distinguished by a broad black border around its upperwings and an unmistakable row of black spots on its upper forewing.
The butterfly is known for its remarkable life cycle, which involves the caterpillar spending most of the year within the nests of red ants, where it feeds on ant grubs.
In Somerset, the National Trust’s Collard Hill is a stronghold for the Large Blue, which can be seen there between early June and mid-July.
People can find out more information on the Large Blue festival by visiting:
The festival is part of ‘The Blues and Browns of the Polden Hills’ project, which was made possible thanks to £67,800 of National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project is implemented by the East Poldens Large Blue Landscape Partnership between Butterfly Conservation, J&F Clark Trust, Millfield School, National Trust, Natural England, University of Oxford, Somerset Wildlife Trust and South Somerset District Council, with support from Network Rail and private landowners.
To find out more about the project, please contact Sarah Meredith by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.