The Heath Fritillary is now one of our rarest butterflies and would, very likely, have become extinct in the UK were it not for our conservation efforts over the past two decades. Its decline was driven by the loss of suitable habitat and by the 1980s it was on the verge of extinction.

Our conservation efforts focused on helping land managers create suitable habitat for egg laying and larval development, and the butterfly is now doing well across its surviving range. 

  • In East Kent this year, 2,918 Heath Fritillaries were recorded on a single day (the highest count on record), and we saw signs of colonies expanding into a further site where coppicing had taken place. Read more about our work in Blean Woodlands.
  • In Essex, numbers have increased in the colonies within the three woodland sites over the last three years. Habitat restoration has also taken place at other nearby woods in the hope that the butterfly will re-colonise. 
  • In Exmoor, a decline in grazing in the 1990s reduced the range of the Heath Fritillary, but the number of colonies and sites has remained relatively stable since then, with encouraging numbers recorded in 2018 and 2020.
  • In the Tamar, the butterfly is stable following the highest timed counts ever recorded in 2017 and 2018. Read more about this work here.

However, there is still much work to be done to ensure its continued survival, including regular and targeted habitat management. This species is also facing a new challenge, as climate change affects how quickly its open habitats become overgrown.

Help us to save more species and protect them from extinction. Donate to our Combat the Crisis Appeal.

Our conservation efforts wouldn’t have been possible without: Natural England, National Trust, Duchy of Cornwall, Exmoor National Park Authority, RSPB, Forestry England, Kent Wildlife Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust, Tamar Valley AONB, Woodland Trust, South East Water, Tilhill Forestry, Syvla Woodland Management, Biffa, Cory Environmental, private landowners, Butterfly Conservation Branches, volunteers and donations from members and supporters.