We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure one of Gloucestershire's most important grasslands. To do this we need to raise £50,000. Donate today to help us safeguard the future of the large blue butterfly.



We must raise £50,000 before May 2015 to secure one of Gloucestershire's most important habitats and safeguard a future for the large blue butterfly.

Daneway Banks supports one of the largest known colonies of the globally threatened large blue butterfly.

We now have this fantastic opportunity to buy this site and secure it as a nature reserve forever, but we need to raise £50,000 to make this a reality.

This site offers the perfect conditions for the exquisite large blue butterfly. In 1979 the large blue was declared extinct in the UK, but in the 1980's & 90's the Large Blue project reintroduced large blue larvae and eggs to just a few sites in the country. One of these sites being Daneway Banks.

The large blue butterfly isn't just a stunning sight, there's an inspiring story behind it's survival too. The species relies on an extremely rare balance of natural conditions to survive. 2014 was our best ever year for the large blue butterfly. 

Ideal land management

We work closely with Butterfly Conservation and the University of Oxford, managing the land to make sure conditions are favourable for the large blue and Daneway Banks is now a haven for this beautiful butterfly - famous across the UK as a superb example of a reintroduction of a native species.

  • The large blue needs a short turf less than 5cm in height, with an abundance of wild thyme and the red ant, Myrmica sabuleti.
  • Grazing is essential to produce suitably short turf during the spring and early summer, but should be removed during June and July for the flowering of the wild thyme.
  • Scrub should be carefully managed.
  • Wild thyme may also need to be planted as it does not survive as buried seed and may not regenerate.

An ephemeral beauty

Individual large blue butterflies live for four to five days on average, but do not all emerge at once. There is normally a four week window during June and July when the butterflies appear.

The large blue lays its eggs on wild thyme and marjoram. The caterpillars feed on the developing flower buds before dropping to the ground. On the ground they secrete a smell that is attractive to the red ant, Myrmica sabuleti.

The ants mistake the caterpillars for ant larvae and take them into their colonies. There, the butterfly larvae feed on ant larvae until they emerge as butterflies the following year.

Large blue life cycle

  1. Mating pair

  2. Egglaying female

  3. Eggs on thyme flower

  4. Caterpillar feeding

  5. Caterpillar adopted by ant

  6. Caterpillar eating any grubs

  7. Chrysalis in ant nest

Daneway Banks Nature Reserve

A wonderful example of limestone grassland, in spring and summer the banks explode with colour from orchids, rock-rose and cowslips, whilst the air buzzes with the sound of bees and the occasional croak of the raven overhead.

One of the most striking features of the reserve is the numerous large ant-hills made by the yellow meadow ant. On some grasslands they can reach up to a metre in height. In parts of Gloucestershire the ant hills are known as “emmet casts”, “emmet” derived from the old English word for ant.

The reserve is an excellent location for spotting butterflies. Between June and July you might see the large blue butterfly, a butterfly that became extinct in the UK in the 1970s, but has been reintroduced to the reserve. Other butterflies seen regularly on the reserve include the dark green fritillary, marbled white and small blue.

Not just home to the large blue

Daneway Banks is not only home to the threatened large blue butterfly; this very special nature reserve is also home to many other rare species.

Butterflies aren’t the only wildlife to spot, other rare creatures include the hawthorn jewel beetle (Cionus nigritarsis), glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca), and Roesel’s bush-cricket (Metrioptera roesolii). The unimproved grassland is also perfect for scarce wildflowers such as green-winged orchid (Orchi morio), slender bedstraw (Galium pumilum) and cutleaved germander (Teucrium botrys).

Roesel’s bush-cricket © Bruce Shortland

Glow-worm © David Slater

Green-winged orchid © Dave Kilbey