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Globally endangered Large Blue butterfly enjoys best numbers for 80 years - National Trust

Upper side of a female Large Blue butterfly (image: National Trust / David Simcox)A previously extinct butterfly has had its best summer on record with the south west of England recognised as having the highest numbers anywhere in the world.

Upper side of a female Large Blue butterfly (image: National Trust / David Simcox)

The exquisite Large Blue Butterfly – officially recognised as having died out in the UK in 1979 – has become synonymous with Collard Hill, Somerset since being reintroduced in 2000.

And this year, thanks to three consecutive years of optimal weather conditions and important conservation work by the National Trust, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation and the Royal Entomological Society, numbers have hit a record high.

The butterfly – which contrary to its name, is actually relatively small in size – was recorded at 40 sites across the country in June and July with three key nature reserves, two in Somerset and one in the Cotswolds, found to support 85 per cent of the UK population.

Its population is believed to have doubled in the last year alone at Collard Hill in Somerset, cared for by the National Trust, with this 17.4 hectare (43 acre) site providing the perfect habitat and conditions to support 22 per cent of the UK’s population.

Creating the ideal habitat for the Large Blue at Collard Hill has been achieved by planting wild thyme plants and introducing ponies and cattle to carefully graze the site with help from the Trust’s tenant grazier, to manage growth.

Ian Clemmett, Lead Ranger for the National Trust’s Somerset Coast and Countryside said: “By working with our grazier we’ve been able to introduce tailor made management of the land.  The livestock carefully graze the hill in the autumn and early spring, which isn’t always easy to achieve, punctuated with a fallow period in summer that allows insects to thrive and plants to flower. Breeding was initially confined to one corner of Collard but has now increased five-fold. The grazing regime also helped to provide optimal conditions for the red ant Myrmica sabuleti which is vital for the butterfly’s survival.”

  

Wales is the first country to have a complete B Lines map - Buglife

Dowrog Common (c) Steven FalkBuglife Cymru’s Welsh B-Lines initiative will help our bees and other pollinating insects by restoring and connecting wildflower-rich areas across the country.

Today the wildlife charity is launching the new Wales B-Lines map which provides a solution to our declining pollinators. 

Dowrog Common (c) Steven Falk

Bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators are a vitally important part of our wildlife and essential to people.  It is estimated that 84% of our crops benefit from insect pollination along with approximately 80% of wildflowers.  Strawberries, apples, pumpkins, peas and oilseed rape all depend on insect pollinators.

However, many of our pollinators are in serious decline, the numbers of threatened species are rising, and the sheer abundance of insects in our countryside is in sharp decline.  One of the key reasons for this is the loss of wildflowers from our countryside on which our pollinators depend.

The Wales B-Lines Map identifies opportunities for restoring and connecting habitats  such as meadows, heathlands and ffridd, linking existing wildlife areas to create a wildflower-rich network across our countryside and through our towns and cities.

Buglife has been working with local authorities, wildlife charities, local record centres, AONBs, National Parks and others to map B-Lines across the whole of Wales.  The South and West Wales B-Lines were mapped in 2016 and thanks to funding from the Welsh Government, and with additional support from the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent we have now completed mapping of the B-Lines network across Mid and North Wales too. 

 

Numbers of Britain’s loudest bird reach record high - RSPB

Britain’s loudest bird – which was on the brink of extinction in Britain 20 years ago – has enjoyed its best year since records began, according to a new survey by the RSPB.

Since 2006, there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of bitterns making their home in Britain. This year numbers reached record levels once more with 188 males recorded at 82 sites. This compares to 164 at 71 sites in 2017, a positive sign that bitterns are back from the brink and thriving in Britain.

With their well camouflaged, pale, buffy-brown plumage, bitterns are highly secretive birds that spend most of their time hiding in dense stands of reed. They had completely disappeared in Britain by the 1870s, before recolonising early in the 20th Century. However, they found themselves back on the brink in 1997 when numbers dropped to 11 males.

Simon Wotton, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, said: “We count bitterns by listening for their distinctive booming call, and every year more and more bitterns are making newly created or restored wetlands their home and to raise young. The recovery of this elusive bird is a remarkable conservation success and shows what can be achieved through targeted efforts to restore and create more of their favoured habitat. To go from being on the brink of extinction to having close to 200 booming males in 20 years – at a time when many other species are in decline – highlights how effective this project has been.”

 

Why do we love bees but hate wasps? – University College London

Both bees and wasps are two of humanity’s most ecologically and economically important organisms. They both pollinate our flowers and crops, but wasps also regulate populations of crop pests and insects that carry human diseases.

(image: University College London)“It’s clear we have a very different emotional connection to wasps than to bees – we have lived in harmony with bees for a very long time, domesticating some species, but human-wasp interactions are often unpleasant as they ruin picnics and nest in our homes,” explained study author, Dr Seirian Sumner (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment). “Despite this, we need to actively overhaul the negative image of wasps to protect the ecological benefits they bring to our planet. They are facing a similar decline to bees and that is something the world can’t afford.”

For the study, published today in Ecological Entomology and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the European Commission through the Marie Curie fellowship, 748 members of the public from 46 countries were surveyed (70% of respondents were from the UK) on their perceptions of insects, including bees and wasps.

(image: University College London)

Responses revealed that wasps are indeed universally disliked by the public and this is most likely due to a low-level interest in nature and a lack of knowledge about the benefits wasps bring to our planet’s health and function.

How much research is being done to better understand these misunderstood creatures was also investigated. The team found that wasps are an unpopular choice of insect for researchers to study which likely compounds their negative image as little effort is being made to comprehend and communicate their positive role in the ecosystem.

Read the paper: Sumner, S. , Law, G. and Cini, A. (2018), Why we love bees and hate wasps. Ecol Entomol. . doi:10.1111/een.12676

 

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