A world where butterflies and moths thrive and can be enjoyed by everyone, forever.
Butterflies and moths are a vital part of our wildlife heritage and are valuable as sensitive indicators of the health of our environment. The stark fact is that butterflies and moths continue to decline at an alarming rate, despite Butterfly Conservation's best efforts over the last 40 years. Our data shows they are both declining faster than most other well-documented groups of plants and animals, so our task is both daunting and complex. For many species, we know what needs to be done to halt the decline and support recoveries. In order to tackle these losses and achieve the aims of the charity, we have to dramatically increase our capacity and influence over the next few years. Our work will benefit other wildlife and the ecosystems upon which all life depends.
Falling numbers are an early warning to all wildlife that cannot be ignored. We have more than 40,000 members in the UK and 32 volunteer-run Branches throughout the British Isles. We employ over 80 people, including many highly qualified scientists, making us the world's largest research institute for butterflies and moths. We operate 36 nature reserves and we are leading or involved in 73 landscape-scale projects to conserve habitats.
Our Strategic aims for 2025
Butterfly Conservation's new top-level 2025 strategy was agreed by Council in 2016. The strategy takes account of progress and achievement of the previous 2020 Vision and provides an update of the future direction and approach we wish to take at the same time maintaining continuity of our current work.
At the top level of the strategy, the core aims of Butterfly Conservation are to:
Recover threatened butterflies and moths
Increase numbers of widespread species
Inspire people to understand and deliver species conservation
Promote international conservation actions.
All actions and activities of Butterfly Conservation ultimately support the delivery of these core aims.
1) Recover threatened butterflies and moths
We will achieve this by:
Saving threatened species from extinction in all occupied landscapes
Ensuring sustainable long-term conservation effort in priority landscapes
Influencing land use and agricultural policies that affect habitat specialist species
Restoring extinct species
2) Increase numbers of widespread species
We will achieve this by:
Carrying out research to better understand their needs and the threats they face
Influencing land use and agricultural policies that affect wider countryside species
Making habitat management advice for wider countryside species more widely available
Maintaining and enhancing habitats for native Lepidoptera in both rural and urban environments
3) Inspire people to understand and deliver species conservation
We will achieve this by:
Raising awareness about why butterflies and moths are important
Increasing membership and our volunteer base
Educating people of all ages
Raising funds to undertake conservation work
Promoting the importance of connecting with nature for our mental and physical well-being
4) Promote international conservation actions
We will achieve this by:
Increasing our support for Butterfly Conservation Europe
Working with our partners in Ireland/Isle of Man/Scilly Islands /Channel Islands to promote joined-up conservation action throughout the British Isles
Supporting the conservation of butterflies and moths globally through international partnerships
Company limited by guarantee, registered in England (2206468). VAT No. GB 991 2771 89
Registered Office: Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QP
Tel: 01929 400 209
Charity registered: England & Wales (254937). Scotland (SC039268)
The Large Blue Butterfly Conservation rescue project
This funded project aims to help secure the Large Blue in the Polden Hills Landscape in the longer term.
The Large Blue Maculinea arion is the UKs rarest butterfly and is globally endangered.
The Polden Hills supports nearly 80% of the Large Blue populations in Britain. The aim of this landscape-scale project is to help secure the Large Blue butterfly in the Polden Hills network by increasing its population and distribution following a programme of habitat management.
Large Blue Ecology and History
The Large Blue breeds in well drained unimproved grassland, predominately in Limestone or coastal grassland. The adult lays its eggs on Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus flower heads which are the larval foodplant. Breeding success is best in grasslands with a short turf where the host ant Myrmica sabuleti is abundant. Please see the Large Blue Factsheet for more information on the species ecology, habitat and life-cycle.
The Limestone grassland sites in the Poldens Hill are its current stronghold in the UK. Historically this species became extinct in the UK through a combination of factors that led to the loss of unimproved grassland through habitat destruction and abandonment and changes in management.
Since the Large Blue became extinct in the UK in 1979, the combination of research and conservation has resulted in the most successful insect conservation programme in the world. Since its re-introduction to sites in the UK in 1984 the number of successful colonies in the South west has increased to a total of 30 in 2008.
The project started in September 2014 and will run until February 2016.
The project aims to secure the Large Blue butterfly by increasing its populations and distribution across a network of 14 previously occupied and currently occupied sites.
We are specifically aiming to:
Restore three hectares of suitable breeding habitat to strengthen the Large Blue numbers at nine sites and help the Large Blue recolonise five former, but currently unoccupied sites.
Help mitigate against the impacts of climate change. Wild Thyme can be subject to drought in particularly long, dry spells of weather, which has a detrimental impact on larvae. We will be trialling the seeding of Marjoram, an alternative Large Blue foodplant, used usually on locally hotter sites, it is more drought resistant and available later in the season.
Support the expansion of the rare Liquorice Piercer moth by planting its foodplant Wild Liquorice in areas where it has been lost.
Habitat assessments to guide the site management (scrub management and grazing regimes) and to determine locations of Marjoram seeding.
Restoration and maintenance of limestone grassland through scrub management and follow up control of ruderals.
Installation of fencing to allow conservation grazing so that suitable habitat can be sustained in the future following the end of the project.
Marjoram seeding on eight project sites.
Planting Wild Liquorice plants on sites where the plant has been lost to support the expansion of the Liquorice Piercer moth.
Monitoring of Large Blue populations to assess the response of management.
Community workshops aiming to recruit local volunteers to help to assist with conservation management and monitoring. Volunteers are crucial in helping to secure the butterfly in the landscape in the longer term.
The project is managed by Butterfly Conservation’s Species Team based at our Head Office, overseen by Dr Caroline Bulman. Conservation Officer, Rachel Jones manages the delivery of the site restoration work, which includes scrub management, ruderal weed control and community engagement. Local contractors, project partners and volunteers carry out this vital work.
Highly experienced Large Blue contractor David Simcox is leading the research that underpins the project. Using site knowledge from ant surveys, Large Blue monitoring and habitat assessments he will provide carefully targeted management advice on the scrub clearance and grazing regimes. He will also be leading the collection and seeding of the Marjoram together with Sarah Meredith.
Butterfly conservation has many publications as books magazines and more often now as PDF'S which can be downloaded from the internet. On the left is the magazine which is published three times a year, spring, summer and the autumn and has many topics from conservation and many updates keeping everybody up to date. The other two booklets which can be purchased on the internet through many book-publications.
Magdalen Hill Down NNR
A large reserve on a steep, south-facing chalk hillside and hill-top, once the site of Winchester's ancient fair, and a large army camp during WW1. The reserve has been extended twice to take in the arable land for conversion back to chalk downland.
Moths to look out for
Migrant moth sightings include European Corn Borer, Small Mottled Willow and Marbled Clover.
The scarce Striped Lychnis moth breeds on the reserve and nearby.
Scarce arable plants including Cornflower, Venus’s Looking Glass, Night-flowering Catchfly, Corn Chamomile and Sharp-leaved Fluellen were found when the arable area on North Down was cultivated for the sowing of chalk downland plant species.
Fifty years ago Magdalen Hill Down was open, grazed downland famous for Adonis Blue butterflies. Much of it was then ploughed-up for arable cultivation and the steeper slopes left to invading scrub.
By 1989 the butterflies were greatly reduced, but our scrub clearance and grazing management has carefully restored the site into a haven for wildflowers and butterflies once again.
The original reserve has been extended twice (mid-1995 and 2004) by taking on large neighbouring areas of arable land. On these chalk grassland is being very successfully re-created through sowing with native grass and flower seed from other Hampshire sites.
This work, supported by a Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme and Hampshire County Council, is restoring the former glory of this important downland and allowing butterflies and moths to establish healthy populations again.
At the top of the reserve are several Bronze Age Round Barrows, listed as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
Area: 46 hectares (114 acres)
Map reference: SU 506 293 OS Map: Land Ranger 185
Yew Hill NNR
This chalk hill-top has stunning views and is a popular walking spot. It is easily accessible from Winchester, and has great populations of downland wildflowers and butterflies.
The reserve is traversed by a bridleway flanked by an ancient hedgerow. Together with a grove of trees to the south and by the reservoir bank, this helps shelter the areas of chalk grassland on this open hilltop.
Crossing the reserve is a modern track; parallel to it runs a series of wide ditches, which are thought to be tracks of medieval origin.
The diverse chalk downland flora includes fragrant, pyramidal, bee and frog orchids, clustered bellflower, bastard toadflax, squinancywort, sainfoin, horseshoe and kidney vetch and hairy violet.
The reserve has recently been extended westwards through leasing the grazing on an adjoining 3.6 ha block of semi-improved grassland, but this does not have open access.
Size: 5.85 hectares (14.4 acres) in total; open access area is approx. 1.5 ha
Grid Reference: SU 455 265 O.S. Map: Landranger 185.
Bentley Station Meadow NNR
A sheltered herb-rich meadow with a tree-lined stream. The reserve adjoins Alice Holt Forest, famous for its oak trees which once supplied timber for navy ships.
The site is an interesting wet meadow on a sheltered west facing woodland edge.
The meadow is probably medieval in origin and lies mainly on Gault clay, though with an area of dry slightly acidic soil provides variation in the vegetation.
It is managed by grazing with cattle and careful scrub control - ensuring enough remains to sustain the species relying on it. In addition to the main meadow, the reserve includes a stand of oak trees.
In the meadows there is an abundance of flora and fauna, including good numbers of butterflies and moths. In the summer in the woodland areas, the mighty Purple Emperor can be seen, as well as good numbers of Silver Washed Fritillary, and the White Admiral.
The reserve borders Alice Holt Forest - a large Ancient Semi-natural Woodland managed by Forest Enterprise. This important forest means that many woodland species can be seen on the reserve, which has been owned by Butterfly Conservation since 1992. The reserve is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notified for the grassland and woodland habitats.
Butterfly Monitoring Transects
Monitoring butterfly populations is an important method for measuring changes in the environment as well as the state of habitats for biodiversity. It is also a useful way that both professional ecologists and volunteers can contribute to the conservation of butterflies and other biodiversity. This manual describes how to set up butterfly monitoring by transect, do the counts and report on them. Butterfly Transect Counts are the main sampling method of Butterfly Monitoring Schemes (BMSs). Since the creation of this method by Ernie Pollard in the United Kingdom in 1973 (UK) (for full details of the development of the method, see Pollard and Yates, 1993) it has grown in popularity, particularly in the last decade. Transect counts, also known as Pollard walks, are fixed-routes where butterflies are recorded following easy rules, on a regular basis (ideally weekly) and during good weather conditions. The simplicity of transect counting and the generation of robust data are key to the popularity of the method and its adoption by countries throughout Europe. Butterfly monitoring makes it possible to assess trends in butterfly populations, and to update these on an ongoing, annual, basis. This allows us to track population changes at a local scale as well as across a region, country and even at the European scale. These trends can be used as indicators of the status of biodiversity and to understand the impacts of environmental change. In this way, the Butterfly Monitoring provides regular, standardised data to assess the conservation status of butterflies and produce Butterfly indicators
When establishing a transect, the route should be selected carefully to enable reliable comparisons of butterfly numbers between years. Transects are typically about 1km long and divided into sections that correspond to different habitat areas or separate components of a site. The transect is ideally walked every week during the butterfly season, counting numbers seen within an imaginary box 5m wide, 5m high and 5m ahead of the observer. Transect walks over a season can be shared between different recorders. The Butterfly Transect method requires a regular commitment, with walks ideally made on a weekly basis. The method is not always ideal for surveying species that are difficult to see (e.g. arboreal species) or species that occur in remote locations. In these situations, other methods can be more appropriate for monitoring, for example counting other butterfly stages (eggs or larvae) or conducting timed counts. This manual describes the information needed to set up a butterfly transect. Monitoring butterflies is an interesting and fun way to learn about butterflies and contribute to their conservation
In brief, a transect is a fixed route established at a site where butterflies are recorded, weekly, over a number of years following some basic rules. The majority of transects are chosen by the walker and they decide which route to choose. Some schemes provide advice about areas to record to get even coverage of land cover/ habitat types as well as ensuring that a good range of the species present in a country are sufficiently monitored. Period of the year and frequency Butterfly Monitoring is done during the butterfly season. Depending on which region of Europe you are in, this period will be longer or shorter. In the bulk of Western, Central and Eastern Europe the butterfly season normally starts at the beginning of April and runs until the end of September. In Southern Europe, the season starts in March or even in February. In northern areas, or in mountains, transect counting is typically restricted to between May and August. Transects have to be walked in reasonable weather conditions when butterflies are active (see below). Ideally, they should be walked every week, but if this is not possible, they should be walked as often as possible. If you are not able to conduct counts during the full recording period, try to cover the summer months when butterfly abundance is highest and do the visit every two weeks or ten days. If visits are made less frequently (e.g. every three or more weeks) it is far harder to make accurate calculations of butterfly abundance. Butterfly transects, based on citizen science, have been proven to be an easy and effective method
Time and Weather Conditions to make standardised counts of adult butterflies, the weather conditions must be suitable for butterfly activity. · Time: Butterflies are more active in the central hours of the day when the sun warms up and allows for the flight of butterflies. That usually means between 3.5 hours before and 3.5 hours after the sun is at its highest point. The best moment for counts depends on where you are in your time zone. In the United Kingdom, counts are best made between 10.30h and 16.30h summertime, in the Netherlands between 10.00h and 17.00h, further east in the Central European Time-zone between 9.30h and 16.30h will be best and in the South of Europe between 9.30h and 17.00h. Under exceptionally hot situations these times can be extended with an extra hour on both sides and in some areas, the central hours of highest temperatures should be avoided in the summer. · Temperature: Only count when the air temperature is 13°C or higher. Between 13 and 17°C it is important that it is sunny with a cloud cover of 50% or less. At temperatures of 18°C or more it is also permissible to count with a higher cloud cover. Try to measure the temperature with a portable thermometer, with a smartphone or from a meteorological website of your region. · Cloud Cover: do an estimation of the clouds that cover the sky in rough percentage. · Wind: it should be 5 or lower on the Beaufort scale (called a fresh breeze), which is when the branches of a moderate size move and small trees in leaf begin to sway. In general, count when the weather is nice and pleasant and the butterflies are active!