Suffolk nature group fired up to help brimstones

A brimstone butterfly in sping sunshine - the species is being helped by the Suffolk branch of Butte

A brimstone butterfly in sping sunshine - the species is being helped by the Suffolk branch of Butterfly Conservation. Picture: MATT BERRY - Credit: Archant

Butterfly Conservation branch giving out free buckthorn plants to encourage popular species

A male brimstone butterfly. Picture: MATT BERRY

A male brimstone butterfly. Picture: MATT BERRY - Credit: Archant

It’s not so much fire and brimstone that’s on the minds of Suffolk butterfly conservationists, although they are fired up and brimming with enthusiasm for their latest initiative - it’s more like brimstones and buckthorn.

They want to see their Brimstones and Buckthorn Project take flight in the county as they try to help one of Britain’s most popular and attractive butterfly species which is widely regarded as a welcome harbinger of spring.

Members of the Suffolk branch of the charity Butterfly Conservation are working to conserve the brimstone butterfly, a species that will soon provide splashes of yellow in the early spring sunshine as adults emerge from their winter hibernation and take to the wing to commence their breeding cycle. The lepidopterists hope their project, which honours the memory of a Suffolk butterfly enthusiast, will also encourage people to become wildlife gardeners at a time when nature needs all the help it can get.

The branch is offering free “whips” of buckthorn - the brimstone’s only food plant - for individuals and groups to plant in a bid to help the butterflies thrive.

A brimstone butterfly on rosebay. Picture: JULIAN DOWDING

A brimstone butterfly on rosebay. Picture: JULIAN DOWDING - Credit: Archant

Branch secretary Julian Dowding said: “Female brimstones have an almost legendary ability to find buckthorn from afar and because of this, bushes planted will almost certainly attract brimstones to lay their eggs and increase the number seen or recorded in subsequent years.

“It’s a great wildlife gardening project too, since, in the face of great pressures upon our environment, it shows that individual people can do something positive and get fairly quick results. It also helps to interest more people in wildlife - many people who have taken buckthorn from us in the past have become Butterfly Conservation members.

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“We want to do this in the next two or three months so that the ‘whips’ can be planted before the sap rises, and it will have to be on a first-come first-served basis.”

The initiative was also a “lovely way” to honour the memory of Suffolk butterfly enthusiast Susie Mellor, of Ashfield, near Debenham, who died in St Elizabeth Hospice, Ipswich, in 2014.

A female brimstone butterfly lays her eggs. Picture: JULIAN DOWDING

A female brimstone butterfly lays her eggs. Picture: JULIAN DOWDING - Credit: Archant

“Susie was wonderfully enthusiastic about helping the environment, especially butterflies, and after her death the branch received a legacy from her estate,” said Mr Dowding. “We are thinking about her in this project and in many things that we do - for example we have put a bench that bears her name in Holywells Park, Ipswich, in an area that is known as ‘Brimstone Alley’. She got so much joy from butterflies and we are keeping her memory alive by helping them.”

It was hoped that the buckthorn provided through the legacy would be planted in areas in which brimstones were under-recorded and any sightings that were made as a result of the plantings would be recorded on an interactive map on the branch’s website, wwwsuffolkbutterflies.org.uk

Anyone interested in receiving buckthorn plants in the project can contact branch committee member Kevin Ling at kevling2013@aol.com

The pupa of a brimstone butterfly. Picture: MATT BERRY

The pupa of a brimstone butterfly. Picture: MATT BERRY - Credit: Archant

A brimstone butterfly homes in on buckthorn. Picture: JULIAN DOWDING

A brimstone butterfly homes in on buckthorn. Picture: JULIAN DOWDING - Credit: Archant

Members of the Suffolk branch of Butterfly Conservation with some of their buckthron 'whips' in Land

Members of the Suffolk branch of Butterfly Conservation with some of their buckthron 'whips' in Landseer Park, Ipswich. Picture: HELEN SAUNDERS - Credit: Archant

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