The Scottish public are being asked to keep their eyes out for the UK’s smallest butterfly species – the Small Blue Butterfly - this summer. The Tayside Biodiversity Partnership and wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation are trying to measure the number of this important species in Scotland this year after bad weather affected the flight season in 2019.
Small Blues are declining in Scotland, and are now mostly found on coastal sites in Moray, Caithness, Angus and Berwickshire where the particular foodplants for Small Blue caterpillars grows. In Scotland the caterpillars only feed upon Kidney Vetch, which can be recognised by its bright yellow flowers that are covered in soft hairs. The butterflies prefer warm sites sheltered from the wind, and are most often found in sand dunes and coastal grassland between late-May and late-June. Knowing exactly where Small Blues are found helps to target on-the-ground conservation work. See the bottom of this page for information on how to send in your sightings.
Unlike the more widespread Common Blue butterfly, the Small Blue’s upper wings are dark grey with a very light dusting of blue scales and, the undersides are pale grey with black spots.
There is a particular interest in this butterfly in Angus, where the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership has been working with Butterfly Conservation and volunteers for several years to monitor the Small Blue populations and create more habitat for this minute butterfly. Some of the plans for 2020 have been put on hold because of Covid-19, but people can still get involved if they take precautions.
Catherine Lloyd from the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership said: “If the coast paths are already part of a daily exercise route, we would ask you to look out for this little elusive butterfly, and try to get a photo and send in details of sightings.''
Despite Covid-19, members of the public are being invited to come forward to receive training online this summer so they can volunteer and take part in more rigorous surveys next year. Two free online butterfly identification workshops will be held on Saturday 30th May and Monday 1st June, between 10am and 11am - click the links to book your space.
Director of Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Paul Kirkland, said: “We’re very pleased Scottish Small Blue Week is still going ahead, albeit at a smaller, invariably online scale. It is such a rare butterfly that we still need to protect its remaining colonies and encourage the butterfly to spread back into its former territory.”
Catherine said: “Later in the year we will plant specially-grown Kidney Vetch nurtured by a number of volunteers, including the community gardening group Food is Free Carnoustie. Local seed for this has been provided by Brechin-based Scotia Seeds.
“Woodlands Primary School in Carnoustie continue to be the Angus School Species Champions for the butterfly and will be involved with the planting at Carnoustie Golf Links which will also be unveiling new display boards about the Small Blue later in the year.”
Last December, the Angus Small Blue project won the prestigious RSPB Nature of Scotland’s Community Initiative Award; in the same month the project also received the UK Biodiversity Project Award from the Association of Local Government Ecologists. Despite all the restrictions at the moment, this little butterfly is still very much a winner!
Small Blue Week will run largely online from Saturday 30th May until Sunday 7th June
Send in your sightings
If you see a Small Blue, let us know! You can easily send in sightings in one of the three following ways:
iRecord Butterflies app: a free app (available for Android and Apple devices) that allows you to send in sightings of any butterflies you see.
The Butterflies for the New Millenium recording webage: a website where you can enter records of butterflies you see.
Email: you can also email butterfly recorder Glyn Edwards on @email
Where to see the Small Blue
Angus: Coastal areas including the coastline between Monifieth and St. Cyrus, north of Montrose.
Borders: Several sites have been located in the Burnmouth area (south of Eyemouth) in recent years where the butterfly seems to be surviving well and spreading to new sites. The butterfly can also be found around North Berwick.
Highlands: The Moray coast between Banff and Inverness, also north from Nigg to Golspie. There are also colonies in and around Thurso, and in the Cairngorms around Kingussie, Aviemore and Granton-on-Spey.
Ayrshire: there is a single colony at the Scottish Wildlife Trust Gailes Marsh reserve, south of Irvine. This resulted from a reintroduction project undertaken several years ago.
Did you know that BC has more than 2200 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.
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.