Exotic butterflies are heading north

First published in News

EXOTIC butterfly species once found mainly in the south of England are spreading north.

A warmer climate has made northern parts of the country more habitable.

Three-quarters of UK butterflies showed a 10-year decrease in either their distribution or population levels.

And although the Long-tailed Blue has not yet reached Cumbria, a minority of common species such as the Peacock, Comma and White-Lettered Hairstreak have moved from the south and are now firmly established in the North West.

Chris Winnick from the Butterfly Conservation Cumbria said that despite a warmer summer in 2013, most rare and specialist butterflies were particular about their habitat and caterpillar food plant.

“We cannot be precise on this but climate change has undoubtedly played a part in allowing butterflies and moth species to move further north,” Mr Winnick said. “The rare and endangered High Brown Fritillary has just 30 colonies in the UK, representing five per cent of its former range.

“The Morecambe Bay Limestones are the UK’s national stronghold, with two-thirds of the remaining population. “The habit and food plant for these insects must be present but our detailed recording and monitoring shows that this movement north still continues and further new species may arrive.”

Other endangered species that rely on a specific habitat — such as the Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Duke of Burgundy — still face extinction. However, other threatened species, including the Large Blue, Marsh Fritillary and the Silver-studded Blue, have stabilised or increased due to conservation efforts over the past decade. “The main threat in the Morecambe Bay area is habitat change. Most of these species require open sunny glades with a profusion of violets and other food plants to lay their eggs. “High-Brown Fritillaries need bracken cover, Large Heath require a semi-waterlogged environment and Mountain Ringlets may migrate further uphill so we need to monitor the impact of climate change carefully in the future,” Mr Winnick added.

If you would like to find out more about local butterflies or would like to volunteer to help with conservation and recordings contact your local Butterfly Conservation on www.cumbria-butter flies.org.uk or www.lanc ashire-butterfiles.org.uk

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