A butterfly once restricted to a small part of Scotland is making a comeback by expanding its range in the countryside and moving into cities, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.
Just 50 years ago the Speckled Wood could only be found in small numbers on the west coast and around Inverness, but since then, its population has expanded rapidly.
In the last five years the butterfly has colonised Edinburgh’s green spaces and has recently moved into Aberdeen.
The Speckled Wood has experienced an extraordinary 71% increase in distribution and 84% increase in abundance across the UK in the last 40 years as a result of the warming climate.
Anthony McCluskey, BC Scotland’s Urban Butterfly Project Officer, said: “Until this year, the only sighting of a Speckled Wood in Aberdeen was in 2015 at Hilton Woods, but now it’s been seen all over the city, including south of the Dee at the Kincorth Hill Nature Reserve.
“This is really exciting news because it’s now clear the butterfly has become established here and Aberdonians can officially add a new species of butterfly to the list of insects found flying throughout the city.”
Jen Hickling, Countryside Ranger for Aberdeen City Council, saw the butterfly at Kincorth Hill this summer. She said: “I instantly recognised this sighting as something special and alerted staff at Butterfly Conservation. The Local Nature Reserve is a really valuable area for wildlife and I’m looking forward to next summer to see if the butterfly’s numbers will increase.”
The Speckled Wood prefers partially shaded areas of woodland, gardens and hedgerows and likes to feed upon honeydew, but has also been known to nectar on plants like Ragwort or Dandelion.
In Scotland, the butterfly is dark brown with white spots on both wings, although the further south in the UK you go, the spots are more orange in colour.
The male is territorial and can often be seen perched in a sunny spot waiting for a mate to pass by, or else spiralling into the air to chase away contenders.
The females lay their eggs on long grasses and the next generation of adult butterflies will be seen between July and September.
Butterfly Conservation is appealing for volunteers to help with butterfly surveys in 2019 so the charity can continue monitoring the progress of the Speckled Wood and other butterfly species across Scotland.
Anthony added: “Without volunteers we wouldn’t know how our butterflies are doing and it’s thanks to the volunteers at Kincorth Hill this summer that we now know more about the Speckled Wood and how it is doing in Aberdeen. We are hoping to have new surveys set up at different locations next year, so it would be brilliant to have more people helping us.”
BC has more than 2000 members living in Scotland www.butterfly-conservation.org/scotland where we work closely with local communities, landowners, the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage and other conservation partners, to safeguard Scotland’s butterflies, moths and their habitats. We do this by:
- Advising landowners on managing land for butterflies and moths.
- Carrying out surveys, monitoring and research on our most threatened species.
- Training volunteers to enable them to take action for butterflies and moths.
- Making recommendations to the Scottish Government on its environmental policies.
- Encouraging everyone to cherish and enjoy butterflies and moths.