Rare Butterflies are Back in Business

The summer of 2018, known by many as the hottest UK summer they have experienced, was also a highlight for some of our rare national butterflies. The Large Blue and the Black Hairstreak, in particular, had a splendid season and saw their numbers boost to become their best since monitoring began.

Blue Butterfly Print Picture

We found this beautiful blue butterfly in Essex and had to take a picture

The Black Hairstreak

The Black Hairstreak, a very elusive species, is only found in thickets of Blackthorn in woodlands between Oxford and Peterborough. With an adult colony often restricting itself to a single area of a wood, scientists feared its numbers would continue the decline experienced throughout the twentieth century. However, in a pleasant surprise, their numbers actually soared in 2018 by 926% on the previous year!

Black Hairstreak Butterfly

The Black Hairstreak

The Large Blue

The Large Blue, perhaps the rarest of our butterflies, is unique in that most of its year is spent in the nest of red ants. Here the larvae like to feed on ant grubs. Unfortunately, the species went extinct in Britain in 1979, but has since been reintroduced as part of highly-commended conservation project. Increasing by 58% compared to 2017, there are now more Large Blues flying high in Britain than in any other country!

Large Blue Butterfly UK

The Large Blue

What was different for butterflies in 2018?

The warmth of the summer provided greater temperatures for butterflies, but not so warm as to become drought-stressed. The preceding colder months of February and March, which experienced the ‘Beast from the East’, also created better conditions for eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises, which, in colder conditions, tend to rot or are parasitised.

Orange Butterfly picture photograph

We also love the warmer tones found on this butterfly!

But it’s not all good news for UK butterflies

Species whose caterpillars feed on grasses struggled as its food source failed to survive in the warmer weather. In fact, the Small Tortoiseshell and The Peacock, both popular species amongst keen gardeners, experienced their third worst year since their records began in 1976. Scientists also believe that 2019 may prove challenging for butterflies as they feel the knock-on effect of 2018’s summer, with its drought killing the food source the next generation of caterpillars need to survive.

At Koala Chess Art we hope for a season where both our family favourites and our rare species can flourish. Fingers crossed!

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