Somerset Wildlife Trust Launches Appeal To Help Rare Butterfly Brought Back From Extinction

06 Sep 2021

Somerset Wildlife Trust is pleased to launch a new appeal which will help to support the Large Blue butterfly. The Large Blue Butterfly Appeal has been launched to help this rare and iconic butterfly, which was declared extinct in the UK in 1979. Thanks to donated eggs from Sweden, it was reintroduced to south west sites in the 1980s - the Trust’s Green Down Nature Reserve being one - which is now home to the UKs largest population of Large Blue butterflies. Their future however is under threat once more due to the increasingly unpredictable weather due to our changing climate.
2018’s drought meant fewer red ant grubs and less wild thyme, the Large Blue caterpillar’s food plant, resulting in a steep fall in numbers in 2019 – from approximately 9,500 adults in 2018 down to only 3,800. This spring’s cold snap will likely affect the Large Blue too, though it will be 2022 before we know the full impact.
The appeal is raising funds to support important monitoring of populations at Green Down, and to carry out habitat work to provide the conditions that this rare butterfly – and the species it relies upon to complete its complex lifecycle – needs. This includes controlling tree and scrub growth, carrying out conservation grazing, and fence and infrastructure repairs.
The appeal’s ambition is to help build the population sufficiently, so the Large Blue butterfly can withstand climate shock and can also naturally colonise, or be introduced to, other nearby nature reserves in the Polden Hills.
Mark Green, Reserves Manager, South Somerset said:
The story of the Large Blue butterfly is a fascinating one and an incredible conservation success story here in Somerset. But whilst our Green Down reserve has proved to be a safe haven for this wonderful creature so far, it is going to take a great deal of effort to ensure that the habitats they rely on for their fragile lifecyle are resilient enough to cope with now unpredictable weather conditions. Monitoring is critical, but with support we can work to grow its population. We hope people get behind the appeal and help ensure the Large Blue has a future here in the county.”
An amazing lifecycle:
The Large Blue butterfly exists parasitically with a tiny red ant – Myrmica sabuleti – which is deceived into taking the butterfly’s caterpillar into its brood chamber, where the caterpillar feeds on ant grubs before pupating and emerging as a beautiful butterfly the following year. With such a niche lifecycle, as well as the butterfly historically being a target for collectors, and having been negatively affected by changing agricultural practices, it’s no wonder that Large Blue’s populations have always been fragile.
In addition to the Large Blue butterfly, the Large Blue appeal will also benefit other species in the area, including the Shrill Carder Bee, one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees; cut-leaved selfheal, a perennial herb now only found in a few scattered locations in southern England; and the lesser whitethroat, a shy summer migrant that lives in the dense hawthorns and blackthorns around the edge of our Green Down reserve. These species also rely on the important conservation work we do on our Green Down reserve for their survival too.
If you can, please give today to help the Somerset Wildlife Trust protect this amazing butterfly into the future. Every donation, whatever the size, will make a real difference.
You can donate to the appeal by visiting their website, by telephoning 01823 652429 and speaking to Zoë, or by sending a cheque made payable to Somerset Wildlife Trust to 34 Wellington Road, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 5AW. Please specify that your cheque is for the Large Blue Appeal.
Somerset Wildlife Trust Launches Appeal To Help Rare Butterfly Brought Back From Extinction
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