During a visit to Fermanagh Show on Wednesday 4 th August, Farming Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, participated in the launch of an information leaflet about the Marsh Fritillary butterfly.
The beautiful Marsh Fritillary butterfly is a threatened species across Europe. Several large colonies have been discovered in the last few years in Fermanagh and west Tyrone. The charity Butterfly Conservation NI is keen to help land owners protect the butterfly and this has lead to the launch of a new information leaflet shedding light on how farmers can protect this stunning species.
The leaflet provides advice to farmers which will help them with identification and management of their land for this rare butterfly. It has been produced in partnership by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Butterfly Conservation.
New sites have been discovered by field staff working for both DARD and NIEA who have discovered butterflies and caterpillar webs whilst visiting farms and protected sites throughout Fermanagh and Tyrone. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has also designated several new sites as Areas of Special Scientific Interest in light of finding substantial colonies of the marsh fritillary present.
Speaking at Fermanagh Show Michelle Gildernew said “I am delighted to launch the leaflet about the beautiful Marsh Fritillary butterfly. It is great to see staff from my Department working closely with farmers, NIEA and Butterfly Conservation. Farmers in this area who are managing species-rich grasslands under agri-environment agreement are truly making a difference by helping to protect this rare species”.
Catherine Bertrand, Senior Regional Officer for Butterfly Conservation NI, said:
"The butterfly needs pastures with abundant devil's-bit scabious, upon which the caterpillars feed. Such pastures have disappeared from large parts of Ireland and Britain through agricultural improvement and heavy grazing, but fortunately we still have extensive areas in Fermanagh and West Tyrone. Butterfly Conservation is keen to continue work with farmers and DARD to show how traditional low-intensity cattle grazing can really help this butterfly."
Dr. Michael Meharg, Head of Biodiversity within the Northern Ireland Environment Agency,
"Wildflower meadows are one of Northern Ireland's most precious priority habitats, and various scheme options are available to help farmers continue to manage these superb, flower-rich fields in a traditional, non-intensive way. By doing so, this butterfly and many other species that depend on these meadows will remain here for future generations."
Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation said:
“We are very grateful to the Minster for launching our advisory leaflet today. We appreciate her support for our work and the willingness in both DARD and NIEA to work together with ourselves to support and protect the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. This is a very special part of the world and we hope we can help keep it that way."