Posted by: David Green | June 18, 2010

The Large Blue butterfly

The Large Blue butterfly is one of the species we hope to feature in the museum’s new Living Planet gallery. The Large Blue shocked British conservationists in the late 1970s when our last colonies died out. The butterfly was declared extinct in Britain in 1979. Fortunately, sufficient research had been done by that time to establish the appropriate conditions for the butterfly to survive. Like many other species in the blue family (see my recent post on the green hairstreak), the Large Blue has an association with ants. It thrives on warm south facing slopes with short turf which play host to particular species of red ant. To conserve the butterfly you must look after the ant!

After careful thought, Large Blue butterflies from Scandinavia were introduced to several sites in Somerset. Most of the sites are closed to the public, but visitors are encouraged at the National Trust nature reserve at Collard Hill near Street, where the Large Blue was introduced in 2000. I met Sarah Meredith, the National trusts’ Large Blue warden at the site. She runs a blog when the butterfly is out and about, which has up-to-date information and includes lots of great photos.

Steep short turf on a south facing slope with wild thyme and ant nests, ideal habitat for the Large Blue butterfly at Collard Hill

I never imagined I would see a Large Blue, let alone photograph one, but 2010 has been an good year at Collard Hill and there were a few on the wing. Sarah pointed the first one out, flying rapidly a few centimetres above the grass. A gentle walk around   showed that the best area for photography was a steep south facing slope, known locally as the quarry. This is a very sheltered spot and the (larger and more attractive) female butterflies were basking in the sun. There were a few photographers there and we were able to get quite close without too much disturbance. I was more than happy with the photos that resulted.

Photographing a female Large Blue at Collard Hill last Sunday

One of the photos

There are a lot of other interesting things to see at Collard Hill. On the way into the reserve there is a superb stand of butterfly orchids interspersed with the occasional Twayblade. Many other species of butterfly share the site with the Large Blue. They include the Common Blue, Speckled Wood, various skippers, Red Admiral and Painted Lady. One of the nicest finds of the day was the tiny moth, Pyroausta purpuralis, which is similar in colour to the University of Manchester’s purple and gold. I’d recommend a visit to anyone with an interest in natural history. The Large Blue will be flying for a few more weeks, so there is still time to see it in 2010!

Pyrausta purpuralis an attractive little moth in university colours!

A great green bush cricket spotted on the way into the reserve.

A Speckled Wood, these were not always as common as they are now!

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Responses

  1. […] more here: The Large Blue butterfly « Nature Manchester By admin | category: University of MANCHESTER | tags: brasier, map-stresses, nicest, […]

  2. […] The Large Blue butterfly « Nature Manchester […]

  3. Hi David,
    Sarah here, WOW, you got some great photos while you were visiting Collard. I love you Cricket picture. I am glad you got some great shots and enjoyed the site.


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