Heat helping butterflies thrive

A butterfly on the hand of Bulent Allen

Butterfly experts are hoping hotter weather could help halt a drop in numbers of the species.

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly has been declining over the past 20 years but experts have just discovered a second brood in the south-west of England. Their numbers had fallen by 60 per cent.

Butterfly expert Mark Lightowler, from Animal World and Butterfly House in Bolton, said that the Duke of Burgundy is usually confined to areas such as Dartmoor and Cornwall.  But the latest discovery of the Duke of Burgundy came on National Trust land in Gloucestershire, the furthest north it has ever been spotted.  Mr Lightowler hopes this find will stop the decline in numbers of butterflies.

One of the reasons for the decline, according to Mr Lightowler, is the destruction of their habitat due to increased development.

Mr Lightowler said: “Habitat loss is a horrendous problem, particularly in this country. Once a butterfly’s habitat has been destroyed it disappears.”

Matthew Oates, of the National trust, has been studying the Duke of Burgundy for more than over 30 years.  He said: “The warm spells of weather in late May and early June, and then again in late June and early July, in effect created the right conditions for this generation of butterflies to appear eight months early.”

Mr Lightowler advises people wishing to help butterfly conservation to leave out trays of rotten fruit in the autumn for butterflies to feed off prior to going into hibernation.

[From the Manchester (UK) Evening News, 21 August 2009; byline Ellie O’neill]

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