One Noble Butterflys’ Recovery

A blue blooded butterfly? Not quite! But one with a name that implies royalty for sure, the Duke of Burgundy butterfly has had a remarkable journey. Once in serious trouble, this winged wonder is now recovering, to be seen in flashes of orange for hopefully many years to come. Continuing on with more uplifting info, I wanted to write about a very delicate subject – just in time for spring.

Found mainly in central southern England, such as Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, this butterfly used to frequent woodlands and feed on primroses. However, a lot of woodland populations have been affected by less coppicing and numbers began to decrease.
Just as recently as 2011, this species seemed to be in peril. British organisation Butterfly Conservation even reporting a 46% population decline between 1995-99 and 2004-09. They added that the butterfly seemed to be disappearing from a lot of southern England, the problem seemingly habitat change and loss. A bit of a goldilocks scenario, Duke of Burgundy butterflies will need a habitat to not be overgrown yet not overly managed either. Living on the edge of grasslands and woodlands, it was time someone stepped in to fix these dwindling Dukes’ situation.

An ode to their habitual nature, the Dukes on the Edge project has helped this beautiful butterfly return to the woods. Strongly recovering across the south east, the project aimed to focus in this area and make a difference by ‘maintaining, enhancing and creating new Duke of Burgundy habitats’. This was done in patches and all of them close together, allowing the butterflies to move between them.

The process to get this orange and brown butterfly back started with assessing suitable habitats and then practical management (coppicing). Then came the time to monitor the impact of the management on habitat condition and numbers. An amazing part of the project was the level of volunteer involvement, from volunteer work parties that maintain the areas to those who participated in training events and continue to monitor.

By making room for grazing, scrub removal and woodland management, the Duke of Burgundy’s future looks hopeful. In 2016, I went on a survey techniques trip to woodlands in Hampshire, and although more of the time of year to spot hazel dormice, I was happy to see the kind of management that supports butterfly populations, especially in their usual range.

With such incredible success, I have been trying to find more projects with similar results in research recently, not only does it keep me hopeful for the future of species but also lets me in on volunteering opportunities, I’ll always be keen to help a worthy wildlife cause.

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image credit: kiragrafie

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Rosie Alice

Rosie Alice

Environmental writings and NGO volunteer
Rosie Alice

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