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Brighter future in county for butterfly

PUBLISHED: 07:42 22 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:04 22 October 2010

The silver-studded blue butterfly is to be reintroduced to new lowland heath in Norfolk.

The silver-studded blue butterfly is to be reintroduced to new lowland heath in Norfolk.

A butterfly that was almost wiped out of Norfolk has made a remarkable comeback after the efforts of conservationists.

A butterfly that was almost wiped out of Norfolk has made a remarkable comeback after the efforts of conservationists.

And the silver-studded blue butterfly is to be reintroduced to new lowland heath - its native habitat.

It is planned that 30 specimens will be taken from Buxton Heath - which has the largest number of the butterflies in Norfolk - to Cawston Heath, near Aylsham, ideally suited to house the rare butterfly.

The species needs the right balance of young and old bell heathers and ling, with bare patches of soil, and the presence of ants, to survive.

They are to be found at Kelling Heath, Buxton Heath and Horsford Rifle Range, all in north Norfolk.

Ants are particularly important to silver-studded blues as they protect the caterpillars from predators when they become chrysalises. The caterpillars secrete a sugary solution, which the ants like so they take them down into nest chambers.

In the 1970s the silver-studded blue was almost made extinct as heath- land was turned into farmland, or forested over, in what was subsequently recognised as a misguided policy.

Butterfly Conservation Society member for Norfolk Mandy Gluth said the creatures had been rescued from the "brink" in Norfolk.

Local naturalist David Ruthven saved them by taking samples from Horsford Heath, when it was being planted with trees, to the rifle range, said Mrs Gluth. If he had not, there almost certainly would be no silver-studded blues in Norfolk.

She said: "The butterflies are easy to pick up gently in the mid-afternoon when they are roosting. We will put them in insect pots and take them to Cawston."

Volunteers help count silver-studded blues by walking in a zig-zag pattern across lowland heaths where they are known to be. They counted 450 at Buxton, 139 at Kelling and 61 at Horsford last year. Counts will take place this year at Kelling on Sunday and Buxton on June 29.

English Nature has been working closely with the society and heath trusts to bring back the butterfly.

There are no plans to introduce them to south Norfolk as no suitable heathlands have been found.

The rise in numbers of butterflies of all types is encouraging to natural-ists as they are recognised as indica-tors of the health of the countryside. Butterflies are sensitive to change and are often the first insect to disappear if a habitat is polluted.

If you can help with the count, call Mandy Gluth on 01603 871069 or email mandy_gluth@hotmail.com


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