Small Blue butterfly by Andrew Cooper

Scotland’s smallest butterfly has experienced a boost in numbers for the first time in a decade, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.

The Small Blue has declined across Scotland by more than 50% over the last ten years, but last year BC recorded a 10% increase in the butterfly’s numbers compared to 2017.

Nature enthusiasts across Scotland are being asked to look for the butterfly this summer, so experts can monitor its progress and ensure conservation work is targeting the right areas.

BC Scotland and the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership are launching a Small Blue Butterfly Week on Saturday 1 June until Sunday 9 June, where people can go on guided walks to find the butterfly, or take part in habitat creation work.

The butterfly can be seen flying from May until late June and is found across a number of habitats, including sand dunes, rocky coastal grasslands, brownfield sites and occasionally on river shingle.

The Small Blue’s upper wings are dark grey with a very light dusting of blue scales and the butterfly is much darker in appearance than Scotland’s most widespread blue butterfly, the Common Blue.

Small Blue (upperwing) by Andrew Cooper

Director of BC Scotland, Paul Kirkland, said: “We’re thrilled the Small Blue experienced a 10% increase last year and we’ve already had sightings this year at a reintroduction site in Ayrshire, but this butterfly is still rare in Scotland and urgent conservation work is needed to protect its remaining colonies and encourage the butterfly to spread back into its former territory.

“This is the third Small Blue Week to take place and this year’s activities are happening in Angus, Caithness, Aberdeenshire, the Cairngorms, Moray and the Borders - all involving local communities in survey, monitoring and practical management work.”

Tayside Biodiversity Officer, Catherine Lloyd, who helps to co-ordinate conservation efforts for the butterfly in Angus, said: “The focus of our work has been to increase habitat for this butterfly by growing and planting Kidney Vetch – the sole food plant for the Small Blue caterpillar.

“This is very much a team-effort, as we not only have two local businesses involved – Scotia Seeds Ltd and Celtica Wildflowers – but this year the Food is Free Carnoustie group and other volunteers have also offered to grow Kidney Vetch.

“We are also very grateful to the various schools in and around Carnoustie who, together with Carnoustie Golf Links, are continuing to help plant up areas of the coast with Kidney Vetch.”

During Small Blue Week, volunteers are being asked to visit known sites for the butterfly to help look for it and its food plant.

Surveys will also take place to identify any potential new Small Blue breeding sites.

Small Blue - Heath McDonald

Paul Kirkland added: “We are really pleased at the ongoing support for ‘Small Blue Week’ shown by local people and landowners. Especially when one of our most northerly colonies of the Small Blue is threatened by a proposed golf course development at Coul Links, near Dornoch.

“A campaign is underway to save this site, but ultimately the decision lies with Scottish Ministers. All we can do now is carry on with our conservation work and hope the efforts of the public and some good weather will boost this butterfly’s numbers even further this year.”

Butterfly Conservation is urging members of the public to make their concerns about Coul Links known to Ministers .

Small Blue Week is running from Saturday 1 until Sunday 9 June and a number of events are taking place during this time, including:

Angus: A guided walk take place on 1st June in Carnoustie, starting at the Leisure Centre carpark .There will also be a training/survey session at Barry Buddon on 8th June. Contact Glyn Edwards at @email for more information.

Borders: Several sites have been located in the Burnmouth area in recent years where the butterfly seems to be surviving well and spreading to new sites. Contact Barry Prater at @email for more information on how to help.

Cairngorms: Half a dozen colonies remain in Strathspey. Butterfly Conservation’s Highland Branch has run events to restore the habitat at a site near the Boat of Garten. New Small Blue colonies have recently been discovered and there are probably more yet to be found. Contact Pete Moore at @email for more information on getting involved.

Caithness: The few colonies in the Dunnet and Scrabster area are monitored by volunteers, and further habitat management work will take place in the autumn. Contact: Mary Legge @email for more details on how to take part.

Did you know that BC has more than 2200 members living in 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.

Small Blue on Kidney Vetch
Small Blue on Kidney Vetch

The Tayside Biodiversity Partnership is made up of statutory bodies, local authorities, non-government organisations and individuals from across the Angus, Perth and Kinross areas. The purpose of the Partnership’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan (2016-2026) is to ensure that locally and nationally important species and habitats are conserved and enhanced through focused local action.