Hope for rare butterfly

CONSERVATIONISTS today launched a project to create a new colony of one of Suffolk's rarest butterflies.The aim of the work is to provide a new habitat for the silver-studded blue on Blaxhall Common, near Woodbridge, by relocating adult butterflies from sites elsewhere on the Sandlings heaths.

CONSERVATIONISTS today launched a project to create a new colony of one of Suffolk's rarest butterflies.

The aim of the work is to provide a new habitat for the silver-studded blue on Blaxhall Common, near Woodbridge, by relocating adult butterflies from sites elsewhere on the Sandlings heaths.

The adult butterflies will not emerge until the beginning of July, but work is already being carried out to ensure the likely release site is suitable for the butterflies.

Rob Parker, conservation officer with the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation said: “Silver-studded blues seldom fly far from where they emerge, so they sometimes need help to colonise new areas.

“Our plan is to take small numbers of butterflies from two other sites with thriving populations - Hollesley Common and the RSPB's Minsmere reserve - to create a new colony on Blaxhall Common.

“Removing a few adults in carefully controlled conditions will not affect the strong existing colonies and will provide a good genetic mix for the new site.

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“Before the project could get the final go-ahead from Natural England, we needed to check whether the ants were present. Finding them at a high density has confirmed the suitability of the site for the reintroduction.

“A similar scheme in Norfolk has been very successful and we are optimistic this scheme will really benefit these beautiful butterflies.”

Silver-studded blues are only found on heathland and have very specialised needs - they prefer low-growing bell heather and their life-cycle depends on the presence of a species of black ant that looks after the butterfly during the early stages of its life.

The scheme is a joint project between the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation and Suffolk Wildlife Trust, who manage the site at Blaxhall, and has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Connect fund.

The silver-studded blue is one of the UK's rarest butterflies. It has suffered a significant long-term decline in numbers although, in recent years, this has been stabilised, largely due to improvements in heathland management such as that carried out by members of the Sandlings Group in Suffolk.

What do you think of the project? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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