Bringing back large blue butterflies
We've brought the endangered large blue butterfly back to Stroud, where it hasn't been seen for 150 years.
Earlier this summer the slopes of Rodborough Common were flecked with silvery blue, as hundreds of butterflies fluttered among the grasses.
All of this became possible when we teamed up with partners to deliver the biggest reintroduction project of its kind in the UK. This involved releasing 1,100 larvae across the 350-hectare site at Rodborough Common last August after a five-year effort to create the right conditions for the butterflies to return.
Luing, Hereford and long-horn cattle were brought in to graze the slopes, which reduced the scrub and encouraged the growth of marjoram and thyme, where the butterflies like to lay eggs. This also created the right conditions for the Myrmica sabuleti ant, which plays a crucial role in the lifecycle of the butterfly.
During the summer when the ants are out foraging they mistake the butterfly larva as one of their own and carry it to their nest. This is when the caterpillar turns from herbivore to carnivore and feeds on the ant grubs, which keep it going until the following spring. It's then ready to pupate and emerge as a butterfly in the summer. We're excited to share that around 750 large blues appeared on the common this year.
" Butterflies are such sensitive creatures, and with the large blues' particular requirements, they are real barometers for what is happening with our environment and the changing climate."
Why we care about butterflies
With a wingspan of more than two inches, the large blue is the largest and rarest of all nine British blue butterflies. The globally endangered species was last recorded at Minchinhampton and Rodborough Common 150 years ago and became extinct in Britain in 1979. It was then reintroduced from continental Europe nearly 40 years ago.
Butterflies are incredibly fragile and their presence can tell us a lot about what's happening with the environment and changing climate.The work we've done to restore their habitat at Rodborough Common will also help other insects, plants, birds and bats.
Your support means more now than ever
It's thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters that we've been able to help endangered species such as the large blue butterfly. The success of our reintroduction projects depends on strong partnerships with other organisations, as well as time and money.
To continue playing a key role in nature's recovery, we need to step up our efforts to unlock the full potential of the precious land we care for so it can support even more wildlife. We need to create sanctuaries for people and nature to thrive, as well as tackle the threat we all face from the climate emergency.