Butterflies at Stockbridge Down

A pearl bordered fritillary butterfly on speedwell flowers

The chalk hills of Stockbridge Down are a wildlife oasis. It's a stronghold of characteristic chalk plants, offering habitat to over 40 species of butterfly.

Notable species that can be found here are the rare duke of burgundy and pearl-bordered fritillary. Both are in rapid decline and considered a conservation priority. It’s therefore vital work for our rangers to give them opportunities to thrive in the wild.

Butterfly Conservation Trust has funded winter scrub clearance on Stockbridge Down to assist these species in recent years. Degenerative scrub has been cut back to ground level, allowing regeneration and fresh growth for ground flora.The resulting blooms attract hundreds of butterflies, as well as bees and other invertebrates.

Rare species at Stockbridge Down

The Duke of Burgundy is characterised by orange and brown colouring, with rows of white spots on the underside of its wings. Most sightings are of the territorial males, perching on prominent leaves at the edge of scrub.

The rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly
A close-up shot of the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly, perched on a leaf
The rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly

The females are more elusive and spend much of their time resting or flying low to the ground looking for suitable egg-laying sites.

The Pearl Bordered Fritillary is distinguishable by two large silver 'pearls' and row of seven outer 'pearls' on the underside hind wing, with red chevron markings around the outer pearls and a small central spot on the hind wing. It flies close to the ground, stopping regularly to feed on spring flowers. 

Other species that thrive on the Down are grizzled and dingy skippers, marbled whites, dark green fritillaries and members of blue family, including holly, common and small blue.

Carried out by our area ranger, butterfly surveys are ongoing throughout summer, to keep track of these rare species and help inform future conservation work. These are carried out across the whole estate by both staff and volunteers.