People in central Scotland are being asked to help protect butterflies in their area, following the severe decline of three previously common species, Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.

The wildlife charity has been awarded almost £80,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to launch a three-year project called the Urban Butterfly Net, which will address the drop in numbers of Common Blue, Small Copper and Green Hairstreak butterflies in the area.

Common Blue by Tim MellingThe project will focus on recruiting and training volunteers to identify and monitor these three butterflies and other common species like the Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Orange-tip butterflies, which should all be found in urban spaces such as people’s gardens and local parks.

Director of BC Scotland, Paul Kirkland, said: “We are hoping to create a network of volunteers who can care for greenspaces across Scotland’s Central Belt, enabling butterflies and other wildlife to thrive.         

“As a charity, we have had great success helping Scotland’s threatened butterflies, but thanks to this funding we can also turn our attention to the more widespread species which often get overlooked. The sad truth is that many urban greenspace butterflies are in trouble, their habitats are shrinking and their numbers are declining.”

Volunteers will be introduced to butterfly habitats and life cycles and will be trained how to identify and monitor butterflies in their area. The data will be entered into the ‘Greenspace Butterfly Survey’ which will reveal the sites that need Butterfly Conservation’s help to attract pollinators.

This could mean planting more wildflowers or working with local authorities to change how an area of land is managed.

Paul added: “This project is all about getting people to care about the wildlife on their own doorsteps, to engage with it and protect it for future generations.”

Work is now underway to design a series of workshops and events, which will be launched around Easter, inviting people to get involved in helping their local butterflies.

Green Hairstreak by Rob SolomonLucy Casot, Head of HLF Scotland, said: “Our natural heritage is a most precious resource and, thanks to National Lottery players, HLF grants have helped to protect an amazing range of landscapes, habitats, and species of plants and animals. HLF is delighted to support the ‘Urban Butterfly Net’ project that will stimulate people’s interest in the natural world and so help them conserve it for future generations.”

Gillian Agnew, SNH Funding Officer said: “We’re really pleased to be supporting this fantastic project which connects people to the nature on their doorsteps. Not only does it help us find out more about local wildlife, but it helps volunteers learn new skills. Volunteers are so important to help us understand and monitor how our butterflies are doing.”

HLF contributed £57,000 to the project. SNH contributed £22,985.

The 'Urban Butterfly Net' will launch a Citizen Science project, the 'Greenspace Butterfly Survey’ (GBS). The GBS will generate a score for each site surveyed based on the number of butterfly species observed, highlighting good sites and revealing poor ones.

The heritage focus of this project is the much-loved butterfly fauna of Central Scotland and its habitats. There are 32 resident species of butterfly in Scotland, of which 12 are Priority Species under the UKBAP and the Scottish Biodiversity List (SBL). Over the past three decades, 22 (69%) of Scotland’s native butterflies have declined in range. Several of the UK’s rarest butterflies including the Grayling, Large Heath and Small Blue, can be found in Central Scotland, but they have been badly affected by habitat loss and unsympathetic management. Even formerly common species such as Common Blue, Small Heath and Small Copper are also declining rapidly.