Last year was a memorable year for butterflies and moths. We had records of European Swallowtails breeding on the south coast, an unprecedented invasion of Scarce Tortoiseshells from Russia along the east coast, and a series of new moth records in the autumn.
Butterfly Conservation has also had some remarkable successes with our conservation projects and I would like to say a big thank you to all our supporters who have made this possible. The results demonstrate that any funds given to Butterfly Conservation make a big difference to our declining butterflies and moths, while making substantial improvements to some crucial wildlife habitats.
These are just a few highlights:
- We opened our fantastic new nature reserve at Rough Bank in Gloucestershire, home to a wonderful array of wildflowers as well as many butterflies and moths. The reserve was awarded the prestigious National Nature Reserve (NNR) status by Natural England.
- Silver-studded Blue butterflies were found breeding for the first time on restored heathland at Prees Heath in Shropshire, helping secure this last remaining population in the whole of the Midlands.
- Larval numbers of Betony Case-bearer moth doubled in the last few years at its last UK site on our Oaken Wood reserve in Surrey.
- As a result of our Dukes on the edge project, the highly threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly has been saved from the brink of extinction in south-east England. Once widespread, it had been reduced to a handful of colonies by the mid 2000s but has now spread to at least 25 new sites.
- Efforts to save the Duke of Burgundy have been a roaring success in the North York Moors. Management has been improved on 27 sites and numbers are now the highest since monitoring began in the mid-1990s. The butterfly has recolonized three former sites and has been reintroduced at a fourth. Other colonisations have involved Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak and Pearl-bordered Fritillary!
- The globally endangered Large Blue, has received a lifeline from our work in the Polden Hills landscape of Somerset. The butterfly has colonised a further new site that has been especially prepared by planting Wild Thyme and introducing grazing.
- The highly threatened butterfly, the Wood White has increased ten-fold in wood across Northants, thanks to our work with FC opening up 9 km of rides in seven woods to create sunny edge habitats that are needed for successful breeding.
- The Netted Carpet is thriving again in Cumbria thanks to management by the National Trust with advice from Butterfly Conservation experts. Numbers of moth caterpillars at Coniston have increased from 10 to 1,500 in the last decade and it has been successfully re-introduced to another site near Derwent Water.
- The re-introduction of Marsh Fritillary in Cumbria has been a huge success: eight sites have now been brought into favourable management and numbers have risen from a single larval nest in 2007 to over two thousand nests in 2014.
- Thanks to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) funding, our ‘Bog Squad’ of volunteers have installed 50 water retaining dams and cleared over five hectares of scrub to help restore six key peatland sites in Scotland’s Central Belt for rare butterfly species such as the Large Heath and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
- The Big Butterfly Count reached more people than ever before. A staggering 45,000 people took part, with over 560,000 butterflies and moths of the 21 target species recorded during the three week survey period. The Count smartphone app, launched last year, proved a big hit.
- Our flagship education project Munching Caterpillars ran 66 workshops in schools across Dorset and Somerset, teaching over 4,000 children about the fascinating lifecycles of butterflies and moths. The team have also helped develop butterfly friendly gardens in 13 school grounds.
- Our recording schemes reached a major milestone when butterfly records reached 10 million. But even this impressive total is outstripped by records from the National Moth Recording Scheme which reached the unprecedented total of 18.6 million.
- We held our largest ever International Symposium attended by 238 delegates from 28 countries. There were over 80 fascinating presentations from across the world, many of which will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Insect Conservation.
- Finally BC Europe celebrated its tenth anniversary at its fourth meeting of Partners. We now have a network of 45 partners in 36 countries to help co-ordinate action across the continent. We have used their expertise to produce a new Red List of European butterflies as well as Climatic Risk Atlas of butterflies, and Prime Butterfly Areas books of Serbia and Bulgaria. A Grassland Butterfly Indicator shows that numbers of 17 widespread species have declined by 50% in the last 22 years, showing the massive loss of butterflies and other insects. BC Europe now has a comprehensive Conservation Strategy aimed at halting these losses by 2020.
Thank you again to everyone who has contributed to our conservation effort in 2014. There are lots of ways you can continue to support Butterfly Conservation and make 2015 an even better year for butterflies and moths.
Find out how you can help.
Dr Martin Warren
Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive
Follow me on Twitter @martinswarren