Butterfly project is hailed a success

A PROJECT aimed at bringing a once common butterfly back into east Suffolk has registered its first success in the Ipswich area – four years after being set up.

A PROJECT aimed at bringing a once common butterfly back into east Suffolk has registered its first success in the Ipswich area – four years after being set up.

The Brimstones and Buckthorn Initiative was launched in 1999 to try to reverse the decline of the brimstone butterfly.

Part of the decline was attributed the absence from the modern landscape of buckthorn bushes – the butterfly's only food plant.

Wet habitats favouring the alder buckthorn have been drained in recent decades while the common buckthorn – once used by country people as a laxative – have been removed from hedges by stockman worried about livestock getting “the runs” after grazing on the leaves.

As a result of the Brimstone and Buckthorn Initiative more than 3,000 buckthorn bushes have been planted in east Suffolk on 200 sites, half of them in the Ipswich area.

Now the eggs of brimstone butterflies have been found on buckthorn bushes at two sites in Ipswich – Holywells Park and Landseer Park.

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The eggs should hatch into caterpillars, pupate into a chrysalis and ultimately turn into a gorgeous yellow butterfly.

“It is a real breakthrough and evidence that individual actions of ordinary people can make a difference,” said Julian Dowding who has spearheaded the project on behalf of the Ipswich Organic Gardeners' Group, Ipswich Wildlife Group, Butterfly Conservation and Ipswich Borough Council.

“The project was driven by the fact that female brimstones search out and detect the buckthorn - their caterpillars' foodplant – at fair distances.

“We grew buckthorn bushes from seed using a borough council allotment in Sidegate lane and then looked for sites to plant them. The response was excellent,” said Mr Dowding.

The brimstone is one of the longest lived of the native butterflies. It goes into hibernation during the winter and emerges to lay eggs in the spring.

Anyone interested in helping the project by planting buckthorn bushes can contact Mr Dowding by telephoning 01473 414092.

(blob) Populations of the five most common British butterflies – the large white, small white, red admiral, peacock and small tortoiseshell – are in decline, especially in the south of England, according to a new report by Butterfly Conservation.

The report, based on sightings in 33,000 gardens nationally, suggests the decline is due to loss of habitat and changing weather patterns, possibly as a result of global warming.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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