The once-extinct large blue butterfly, reintroduced to the UK in 1983, flew in its greatest numbers since records began on the largest number of sites in 2022.
Thanks to meticulous conservation by a partnership of scientists and conservation bodies, southwest England now supports the greatest concentration of large blues known in the world.
Twelve new sites are being restored to flower-rich meadows suitable for breeding, either ‘starting from scratch’ on arable land, failed conifer plantations and railway constructions, or by restoring bespoke grazing to degraded downland.
Already, these support up to a third of the UK population of large blues, up from just 7% in 2019.
Among plants, the extremely rare Pasqueflower and Cut-leaved self-heal have reappeared and/or spread under ‘Large blue management’, together with up to twelve species of orchid.
A remarkable number of other insects have increased on or newly colonised the twelve restorations.
Aside from the gains of other rare species, they are important internationally because the Large blue is listed as one of Europe’s most ‘Endangered Species’ of insect, and similarly worldwide.
The restorations are led, supervised and monitored by the Royal Entomological Society’s David Simcox and Sarah Meredith, who also designed the bespoke management plan needed for each site.
David Simcox, Project Officer, Royal Entomological Society, and the Joint Committee for the Re-establishment of the Large Blue Butterfly, said: “We have welcomed the opportunity to continue working on this iconic and difficult butterfly and to lead this diverse and energetic partnership.
“We are extremely proud that the partnership’s efforts have enabled hundreds of people to see this stunning and enigmatic butterfly flying on some of the most beautiful grassland sites in the country. The greatest challenge ahead is to secure this expansion in a warming climate and to develop strategies to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events.”
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