Rare Small Blue butterfly returns to Irvine

Small Blue butterfly Conservationists hope the Small Blue will thrive again in Irvine

Conservationists have returned Scotland's smallest butterfly to a part of Ayrshire after a 30-year absence.

The Small Blue was last seen in Irvine, on the North Ayrshire coast, in 1983.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation Scotland collected 30 butterflies from a monitored site on the Moray coast.

The butterflies were then transported 225 miles to the trust's Gailes Marsh Wildlife Reserve and neighbouring Dundonald Link Golf Course.

Kidney Vetch grows in abundance at both sites. The Small Blue is dependent on Kidney Vetch to complete its life cycle.

Ideal locations

Local reserves manager for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Gill Smart, said: "This project illustrates the need to prevent species dying out in the first place as bringing them back is not a simple matter.

"However, research was undertaken by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation Scotland into the ideal locations, and hopefully now they will thrive once again."

The Small Blue project grew out of the landscape-scale approach to conservation.

This involves enlarging, improving and joining up areas of green space to create a series of green networks.

Species then have a better chance of survival if they can move across the landscape.

The coastal habitats and golf courses in the south Irvine area are a good example of such a network.

Scott Shanks from Butterfly Conservation Scotland said: "The most important element was getting the site ready to receive the butterflies.

"Local volunteers have been sowing and planting Kidney Vetch there for three years.

"They are delighted that the plants they nurtured so carefully could soon be getting munched by Small Blue butterfly caterpillars."

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