Saving The Tamar Valley’s Rarest Butterfly

Heath Fritillary (c) Jim Asher

Heath Fritillary (c) Jim Asher

Nature lovers in Devon and Cornwall are being asked to create a home for a rare and declining butterfly in the hope of boosting its numbers.

The Heath Fritillary butterfly has suffered significant declines in the last forty years, with abundance falling by 87% between 1976 and 2014.

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) needs volunteers to help create and expand current breeding habitat for the butterfly in the Tamar Valley, one of just four locations in the UK where the Heath Fritillary is still found.

Woodland restoration work is planned at 10 different sites, thanks to funding from Biffa Award for Rebuilding Diversity.

The project will also offer opportunities for people to come and see the butterflies and get involved in the conservation work to protect them, such as taking part in survey work and helping to create the sunny clearings favoured by the butterfly.

BC’s Project Officer, Jenny Plackett, said: “There are a number of small colonies in the Tamar valley. We hope to extend the areas occupied by the butterfly and link the sites where it’s already thriving to other sites of suitable habitat, enabling the Heath Fritillary to spread more effectively.

“It’s fantastic that we have been granted this Biffa Award, which will enable this important management work to take place and we are hopeful that the habitat improvements will soon show a positive impact on butterfly numbers – the Heath Fritillary tends to respond very quickly to management.”

The butterfly, distinguished by its black and orange dusky wing colours, can be seen throughout June and early July and the Tamar Valley colonies are found in coppiced or newly felled woodland.

The Heath Fritillary is one of our smaller fritillaries and has historically been linked with the traditional practice of woodland coppicing, giving it the nick-name of the ‘Woodman’s Follower’ as it follows the cycle of cutting around a wood.

This butterfly requires sunny clearings with lots of plants for its caterpillar to feed on. The caterpillars generally prefer Common Cow wheat, although in the Tamar Valley sites they will also feed on Ribwort Plantain and Germander Speedwell.

If you would like to find out more about the ‘Saving Tamar Valley’s Heath Fritillaries’ project, please contact Jenny Plackett jplackett@butterfly-conservation.org

 

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