New butterfly colony takes off

CREATING a new colony in Suffolk of one of Britain's rarest butterflies has gone “extremely smoothly”, according to the team behind the project.The aim of the work has been 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.

CREATING a new colony in Suffolk of one of Britain's rarest butterflies has gone “extremely smoothly”, according to the team behind the project.

The aim of the work has been 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 say the relocation of 30 adult butterflies collected from a thriving colony at Hollesley and released at the new site was carried out under carefully controlled conditions to ensure neither the existing colonies nor the individual butterflies were harmed in any way.

It will be next year though before they know if it is a success.

A team of staff and volunteers from Butterfly Conservation and Suffolk Wildlife Trust moved the adult butterflies.

Rob Parker, conservation officer with the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation and leader of the project said: “I'm very happy with the way the relocation has gone up to now.

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“The process of finding and moving the butterflies went extremely smoothly, especially considering how bad the weather has been lately.

“We won't know until next year whether our efforts have been successful and volunteers will be surveying the site throughout the summer to look out for the 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 butterflies fly in June and July, and seldom straying far from where they emerge, making it difficult for new colonies to become established.

The site at Blaxhall has been carefully prepared for the butterflies, but as no colonies of silver-studded blues existed nearby, the only solution was to physically move the butterflies from other sites.

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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