Posted 31st May 2018 by Peter Byrne
Wildlife lovers are being called on to help the smallest butterfly in Scotland, which is now in big trouble
The rare and declining Small Blue needs urgent conservation work, which is required to help its remaining colonies and to create the conditions necessary to help the butterfly return to its former territories.
Butterfly Conservation (BC) Scotland has estimated the total area that is occupied by the Small Blue is less than 10 football pitches. It is also predicted that at nearly every site, the butterfly is just managing to hang on, in some cases in colonies that only have thirty adults or less.
Several areas that were once Small Blue strongholds have seen their numbers dip or completely disappear, with there being a concern that a 2013 re-introduction project in Ayrshire is yet to produce a viable colony, with no butterflies seen in 2017.
This year, the second 'Small Blue Butterfly Week', organised by BC Scotland in conjunction with the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, will run between 1 to 10 June, and highlights the struggles of the butterfly and the necessary work to save it.
For the last two years, pupils from Woodlands Primary School in Carnoustie have learnt about the butterfly in the classroom and the countryside, as they have helped to plant Kidney Vetch - this is the only foodplant of the butterfly's caterpillar.
Action is also being taken to help the butterfly in Caithness, Aberdeenshire, the Cairngorms, Moray, Ayrshire and the Borders.
During Small Blue Week, visitors will be asked to visit known Small Blue areas to help them look for the butterfly and its food plant. Surveys will also be taking place to identify potential new breeding sites for the butterfly.
Director of BC Scotland, Paul Kirkland, said: "We are really thrilled at the enthusiasm for Small Blue Week and the work carried out will help us to work with landowners to plan future habitat management to help the butterfly."
"As with many scarce butterflies, their habitats are now surrounded by inhospitable countryside or built-up urban areas, so it’s vital we keep the remaining sites in as good condition as possible".
The Small Blue is darker in appearance that the most widespread blue butterfly, the Common Blue. The upper wings of the Small Blue are nearly black with only a very light dusting of blue scales.
The butterfly will often be seen flying from mid-May to late June.
Small Blue colonies in Scotland are found on sand dunes and other coastal grasslands, with only two or three inland sites remaining.
Image courtesy of Butterfly Conservation / Mark Searle