Wednesday 8th June 2016

(c) David Slater

Britain’s rarest butterfly, the large blue, was spotted at Daneway Banks nature reserve on Sunday 5th June for the first time this year. These beautiful and very rare butterflies were reintroduced to the nature reserve in 2002, after being extinct in the county since the 1960’s. The reintroduction is part of a national large blue project.

“It’s always a delight to see the first large blue on the reserve,” says Adam Taylor, Head of Land Management for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT). “We work hard all year to ensure that the unique habitat and special conditions they need to breed are there, but it’s still a thrill to see them back each year.”

it’s still a thrill to see them back each year

The exceptionally warm weather this weekend, and the ideal conditions in the reserve, mean there should be many more to come. This is a particularly significant year as GWT, after 47 years of managing Daneway Banks, were able to bring it into Trust ownership in March this year. The money to purchase this special site was raised from GWT supporters plus a £5,000 gift from Grundon to kick-start the appeal. This guarantees that the habitat will be preserved for future generations.

The butterfly relies on another species to help its lifespan along the way, a red ant called Myrmica sabuleti which lays its eggs on wild thyme. Once hatched, the caterpillars feed on the thyme before dropping to the ground where the red ants mistake them for ant larvae and take them into their colonies. There the butterfly larvae feed on ant larvae until they emerge as butterflies.

There’s a very short window in which to see the large blues. If the weather conditions stay good they should be around for the next two weeks so now is the time to visit if you’re hoping to see what must be one of the county’s rarest species.