In 2011 Natural England commissioned The Ecology Consultancy to produce a report detailing historical, current and future habitat management for the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. The study was to cover privately-owned ancient woodland in East Sussex and to devise a re-introduction programme.
Naomi Forbes, our ecologist from the Sussex office, in Lewes, worked alongside Natural England and Butterfly Conservation on the project. Work comprised data gathering, liaison with stakeholders and targeted habitat suitability surveys. From this, detailed habitat management recommendations were formulated and mapped on a scale appropriate to this woodland butterfly. A Sussex captive-breeding specialist over-wintered the butterfly larvae in netted pots of violets and an initial re-introduction took place in the spring of 2012.
As is well-documented, weather conditions for butterflies were far from ideal in 2012 so it will be interesting to see what numbers emerge from hibernation this year. A
second re-introduction will follow this spring.
The habitat requirements and microclimatic conditions for the pearlbordered
fritillary are very specific – deep litter hibernation sites, larval food plants, early nectar sources, and warm basking habitat – and all need to be in close proximity. A monitoring programme charting the success of the reintroduction will continue over the coming years.