Early start for rare spring butterflies in the Borders

Small Copper (Barry Prater)
Small Copper (Barry Prater)
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Many of the UK’s rare spring butterflies have emerged three weeks earlier than because of the recent mild weather, Butterfly Conservation has revealed.

One of the UK’s rarest species – the Lulworth Skipper - emerged on May 21, month earlier than last year, when it first appeared on July 1.

The threatened Glanville Fritillary emerged four weeks earlier on April 29, while the endangered Duke of Burgundy and Wood White butterflies were both seen three weeks earlier than last year.

Last year’s delayed butterfly emergence was due to the coldest start to spring for half a century, but when looking at the 10-year emergence date mean for 2002-2010, many are still appearing earlier than before and not just in the south of the country.

The Small Copper has been spotted in East Scotland three weeks earlier than last year – on May 6, compared with May 26, in 2013.

Other species found in this part of country, like the conservation priority species the Small Blue and the commoner and spreading Speckled Wood, emerged two weeks earlier than the 10-year average.

Butterflies hibernating over the winter such as the Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock have also been seen in large numbers this year thanks to the warm summer of 2013.

Butterfly Conservation Surveys Manager, Richard Fox explains: “Over the longer term, many butterfly species have shifted their emergence to earlier in the year in response to climate change.”

“Our first encounter with a favourite butterfly species each year is a special moment to treasure, but these sightings are also important indicators of how our native wildlife is responding to changes in the environment.”

Butterfly Conservation has just launched the free iRecord Butterflies app, which allows usersto submit their butterfly sightings and photos to form part of Butterfly Conservation’s long-running national recording scheme. The results will then be used by scientists to determine how species are faring.

More than 4,000 sightings of 29 different butterfly species have already been logged through the new app since it was launched in April.