Backing from National Trust - UK butterflies - Nature - The Independent

Backing from National Trust

Britain's largest landowner hopes campaign will heighten public awareness of butterfly population

A A A

Britain's largest and most important landowner for butterflies, the National Trust (NT), today throws its weight firmly behind The Independent's Great British Butterfly Hunt – a competition and health survey for readers to see as many species as possible this summer.

The Trust believes its massive 600,000-acre estate, containing every habitat from coastal cliffs to mountain tops, from oakwoods to chalk downlands, and from hay meadows to ancient gardens, is home to virtually all of Britain's 58 butterfly species.

"Butterflies are vital symbols of spring and summer, associated with special places and sunshine at magical times of the year," says Fiona Reynolds, the NT's director-general. "This important and welcome initiative by The Independent gives us all the chance to capture the spirit of butterflies and record sightings. I hope the Great British Butterfly Hunt will lead to a butterfly awareness revolution, with people taking a closer look at the fascinating world of butterflies, and enjoying their grace and beauty, from the exquisite Adonis blue to the majestic purple emperor. We need initiatives like this, and for people to support organisations like Butterfly Conservation and the Trust. Otherwise we're in danger of taking nature for granted and losing so much without even noticing."

The Trust is Britain's largest non-governmental landowner. Matthew Oates, the NT's butterfly expert, believes all but one of Britain's 58 species – the chequered skipper, found only in Scotland, where the Trust does not operate – live on Trust land. To find butterfly excursions, try www.nationaltrust.org.uk, and search for "butterfly walk".

The fourth of our status reports concerns the final three of the early season butterflies: the holly blue, the speckled wood and the small copper. The first two species are doing very well but the third is in decline, probably because of loss of its caterpillars' food plants. Readers can find the individual species profiles by our Environment Editor Michael McCarthy on our website butterfly page.

10. Holly blue

Celastrina argiolus

This is the blue butterfly you are most likely to see in your garden, where – as if it were a Christmas insect – it feeds on the holly and the ivy; the caterpillars of the spring generation feeding on holly flower heads and those of the autumn generation feeding on ivy flowers. Males can be distinguished from the somewhat similar species the common blue by their sky-blue undersides (the undersides of common blues are pale brown with black spots). If you plant holly and ivy in your garden, your chances of attracting holly blues are very good.

Larval food plants: Holly (spring generation), ivy (autumn). Occasionally on spindle, dogwood and snowberry.

Where seen: Widespread in urban and rural areas, including parks and gardens. Expanded in recent years as far as northern England but is still rare in Scotland.

Current conservation status: Numbers fluctuate massively from year to year in response to variable levels of a parasitic wasp, but in general it is doing very well: a 191 per cent increase 1976–2008.

11. Speckled wood

Pararge aegeria

Chocolate-brown with creamy wing patches, the increasingly-familiar speckled wood is well named, for it is typically a butterfly of dappled woodland shade. Males like to sit in sunny patches and will spiral upwards to fight off other intruding males. Very mobile, breeding throughout the season, with its caterpillar food plants widespread.

Larval food plants: Various grasses, about a dozen species, all common, such as couch grass and cocksfoot.

Where seen: Woodland on the northern and eastern edges of its range, but elsewhere it is becoming increasingly widespread. Spreading steadily northwards.

Current conservation status: 116 per cent increase 1976-2008, probably because of climate change.

12. Small copper

Lycaena phlaeas

This tiny, spectacularly pretty butterfly, its bright orange forewings flecked with brown spots, is declining steadily, very probably because of habitat loss. Its caterpillars feed on sorrels, small plants which are disappearing rapidly as pastureland and other habitats become "improved" and heavily fertilised grasses crowd out everything else. Three to four generations a year, so can be seen until October.

Larval food plants: Common sorrel, sheep's sorrel.

Where seen: Chalk grassland, moorland, heathland, coastal dunes, undercliffs, railway embankments, allotments, churchyards, waste ground, even cities.

Current conservation status: Much less common than it was 50 years ago, with a 25 per cent decline since 1976.

Joining the Butterfly Hunt

The Independent's Great British Butterfly Hunt gathers pace. Whether as an afternoon diversion from a picnic, or a summer-long quest to track all 58 of Britain's butterfly species, we hope it can offer a glimpse of the beauty and fragility of our rich natural heritage.

For those of our readers inclined, we offer a competition. The aim: to see as many of our native butterfly types as possible. The prize is an afternoon tracking the most elusive, the brown hairstreak, with expert Dr Martin Warren. It is the very last of the British butterflies to emerge (at the end of August) – medium-sized and brown, it has distinct "tails" on the hindwings. This hidden wonder of a creature can best be spotted by the "white pinprick" of an egg, laid on blackthorn.

The winner's rail travel expenses within the UK will be covered and lunch will be provided.

We encourage entrants of all ages. Simply send us, by Monday 17 August, 12pm, your butterfly diary. Briefly list each native species you see; the date and time; and the exact location. And please add one very brief description (no more than 250 words) of your butterfly hunt. The best will be published in The Independent.

The judges will take into account the number of species spotted and also the description. Enter by post (Butterfly Hunt, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9RS) or email (britishbutterflies@independent.co.uk). The winner will be announced in the newspaper. For terms and conditions visit independent.co.uk/comprules or send an SAE. Best of British.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'I felt like that was the lowest I’d ever felt'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
News
A plane flies close to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano
newsAnd yes, it's quite something
Sport
Tito Vilanova passed away aged just 45
footballThe club's former manager died in April, less than a year after he stood down
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch
artAnd it's even for a good cause
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Life and Style
techCriminals are targeting an e-reader security flaw
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
newsBut just how much does a 122-carat coloured diamond go for these days?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week