Big boost for Small Blue

Scotland’s smallest butterfly has experienced a boost in numbers for the first time in a decade, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.


The Small Blue has declined across Scotland by more than 50% over the last ten years, but last year BC recorded a 10% increase in the butterfly’s numbers compared to 2017.


Nature enthusiasts across Scotland are being asked to look for the butterfly this summer, so experts can monitor its progress and ensure conservation work is targeting the right areas.


BC Scotland and the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership are launching a Small Blue Butterfly Week on Saturday 1 June until Sunday 9 June, where people can go on guided walks to find the butterfly, or take part in habitat creation work.


The butterfly can be seen flying from May until late June and is found across a number of habitats, including sand dunes, rocky coastal grasslands, brownfield sites and occasionally on river shingle.


The Small Blue’s upper wings are dark grey with a very light dusting of blue scales and the butterfly is much darker in appearance than Scotland’s most widespread blue butterfly, the Common Blue.


Director of BC Scotland, Paul Kirkland, said: “We’re thrilled the Small Blue experienced a 10% increase last year and we’ve already had sightings this year at a reintroduction site in Ayrshire, but this butterfly is still rare in Scotland and urgent conservation work is needed to protect its remaining colonies and encourage the butterfly to spread back into its former territory.
“This is the third Small Blue Week to take place and this year’s activities are happening in Angus, Caithness, Aberdeenshire, the Cairngorms, Moray and the Borders – all involving local communities in survey, monitoring and practical management work.”


Tayside Biodiversity Officer, Catherine Lloyd, who helps to co-ordinate conservation efforts for the butterfly in Angus, said: “The focus of our work has been to increase habitat for this butterfly by growing and planting Kidney Vetch – the sole food plant for the Small Blue caterpillar.
“This is very much a team-effort, as we not only have two local businesses involved – Scotia Seeds Ltd and Celtica Wildflowers – but this year the Food is Free Carnoustie group and other volunteers have also offered to grow Kidney Vetch.
“We are also very grateful to the various schools in and around Carnoustie who, together with Carnoustie Golf Links, are continuing to help plant up areas of the coast with Kidney Vetch.”

During Small Blue Week, volunteers are being asked to visit known sites for the butterfly to help look for it and its food plant.

Surveys will also take place to identify any potential new Small Blue breeding sites.

Paul Kirkland added: “We are really pleased at the ongoing support for ‘Small Blue Week’ shown by local people and landowners. Especially when one of our most northerly colonies of the Small Blue is threatened by a proposed golf course development at Coul Links, near Dornoch.
“A campaign is underway to save this site, but ultimately the decision lies with Scottish Ministers. All we can do now is carry on with our conservation work and hope the efforts of the public and some good weather will boost this butterfly’s numbers even further this year.”

Small Blue Week is running from Saturday 1 until Sunday 9 June and information on events can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org/SmallBlueWeek

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