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Marsh fritillary flying back

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:37 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

This rare butterfly appears to be fighting back in parts of Wales where it's had something of a stronghold in recent years. After some good weather, the butterfly has been spotted at a few new sites in Camarthenshire.

The decline of this pretty orange chequered butterfly is mainly down to the loss of flowery meadows and in particular the wonderfully named, devils-bit scabious - the only plant that marsh fritillary caterpillars will feed on.

For the last six years, Butterfly Conservation and the Countryside Council for Wales have been running the Mynydd Mawr project, aimed at protecting and enhancing marsh fritillary habitats in Carmarthenshire.

Low volume grazing is particularly important to the butterflies as they like tussocky, damp grasslands with plenty of devil's-bit scabious.

A marsh fritillary butterfly by Mike Turtle:

Sheep tend to over graze the land, making the grass too short and eating wild flowers but cattle and horses play a vital role in keeping the fields butterfly friendly.

The marsh fritillary butterfly lays its eggs in sheltered pockets between taller grasses, which provide the warm conditions in which the eggs and caterpillars can develop quickly.

Despite seventy eight hectares of land being brought in and sympathetically managed, numbers of the butterfly have remained low due to poor weather.

This spring's dry spell however has brought the butterflies out in force across Carmarthenshire and they've been spotted in new areas which is excellent news for the species.

See a marsh fritillary in our butterfly picture gallery.

Find out about how climate change is effecting butterflies.


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