Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Returning the Large Blue butterfly to Cornwall and Devon

Butterfly Conservation have some exciting projects going on:

We've mapped some of our conservation projects to show you where our butterflies and moths need the most help.

Butterfly Conservation - What Does the Future Hold For Wildlife Where You Live?

This is happening in the West Country:

Cornwall Large Blue

The globally endangered Large Blue is the UK’s rarest butterfly.  Declared extinct in the UK in 1979, it is only through careful research, targeted conservation work and a successful reintroduction programme, that we are able to enjoy this beautiful butterfly today.

The Large Blue has a fascinating life cycle with very specific habitat requirements. A  single species of red ant and the caterpillar’s foodplant, Wild Thyme, must both be present to make a site suitable. The red ants (Myrmica sabuleti) that the Large Blue rely upon have their own very specific habitat needs - protecting this beautiful butterfly proves a considerable challenge. 

Our work with partners has meant the Large Blue has been successfully reintroduced to Somerset and the Cotswolds, but is still missing from the Devon and Cornwall coastline, where it was once found.

The Large Blue was first encountered along the North Atlantic Coast of Devon and Cornwall in 1880. By this time the enigmatic butterfly was already nationally rare and its discovery in the area attracted a great deal of interest. Over the next 50 years some 25 colonies were detected but it wasn’t long before populations began to drastically decline. The Large Blue disappeared from the area in 1974.

In the 1990s work began to reintroduce the Large Blue to Cornwall and Devon and 300 caterpillars were brought back to the site in the year 2000. This colony persisted for seven generations. By working across several sites and drawing upon our specific experience in other locations we are confident that we can create a long-term sustainable Large Blue population. 

Without our help it is unlikely you will get the chance to see a Large Blue butterfly on the Devon and Cornwall coast. 

The Project

The key to returning the Large Blue to this beautiful region is the careful selection of the best sites. We have developed a project that will establish the most suitable sites in the region and transform these into a network of habitat that the butterfly can travel within. Allowing movement through the landscape is key to encourage breeding and the creation of new colonies.

Your donation will make it possible for us to:
  • visit and map possible sites, in order to select those with the most potential for Large Blue habitat
  • conduct detailed site analysis of the areas with the best potential habitat including ant surveys, caterpillar foodplant surveys and vegetation height
  • produce detailed recommendations for each site, along with a timescale for restoration to allow the most sustainable locations to be focused upon
  • work with landowners to develop habitat management planscreate the perfect habitat conditions on the best sites and link them together to form a network of suitable habitat


Please help the Large Blue return to the Devon and Cornwall coast.

This work is kindly supported by a major donor. The national Large Blue project is underpinned by science and carried out by a collaborative partnership between Butterfly Conservation, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, J&F Clark Trust, National Trust, Natural England, NetworkRail, Somerset Wildlife Trust, South Somerset District Council, Spalding Associates and the University of Oxford.

Butterfly Conservation - Cornwall Large Blue

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