Butterfly Conservation has just launched a £900,000 conservation scheme to encourage better woodland management for butterflies in the South-East.
Numbers of woodland butterflies have fallen by anything from 38% (the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary) to a huge 72% for the Wood White over the last 30 years. All butterflies had a difficult year last year with the very wet weather, but Butterfly Conservation are making a particular appeal for landowners to consider how they manage woodland to encourage now rare woodland species. Dark, overgrown woods don’t attract sun-loving butterflies, and dense undergrowth suppresses the plants and flowers which caterpillars and butterflies rely on for food. Of course, this has a knock-on effect on woodland birds which feed on the caterpillars and butterflies.
Traditional forms of broadleaf woodland management such as coppicing which create an open structure, and sunny, well-maintained rides and clearings suit butterfly populations best.
Butterfly Conservation is encouraging good management by demonstrating it in practice in their woods in the South-East. They are also working in tandem with the Forestry Commission to create butterfly-friendly areas and target grants towards butterfly conservation. A useful series of leaflets with advice on land management for butterflies and moths, including one prepared by the Herefordshire branch of Butterfly Conservation on woodland, is available on their website. In brief, they advise a mix of sunny and shaded areas, with open rides connected by “junctions” which to create routes by which butterflies can populate the wood. Staggered cutting of ride edges gives one area a chance to recover while you tackle the next.
Which Woodland Butterflies Are Rare?
Butterfly Conservation’s “hit list” includes the: