English Large Blue Butterfly - More Information
The last colony of the English Large Blue Butterfly was seen on the southern edge of Dartmoor in the 1970’s. One man who witnessed its extinction was Jeremy Thomas, now Professor of Ecology at Oxford University. In the 1970’s, after six years of biological detective work to decipher the butterflies life history, his research identified the symbiotic relationship between a species of red ant (Myrmica sabuleti) and the caterpillar of the large blue. This meant the large blue had a future. If suitable sites could be found, containing the right red ants and plenty of thyme plants (on which the butterfly lays its eggs), the large blue had a chance of flying again in Britain. The race was on to find a genetically similar large blue population to re-introduce to England. Such a population was found in Sweden and they were introduced to various sites in the West Country where, particularly on the Polden Hills in Somerset, they are now doing very well.
In the summer of 2010 a small percentage of eggs were harvested from Greendown and Collard Hill in Somerset and transported to a mystery site in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. The plan is to establish two colonies of large blues in the Cotswolds where they were last seen flying in 1963. All David Simcox, Jeremy Thomas and their field assistant Sarah Meredith can do now is wait and see whether all their hard work means the butterflies emerge early next summer!
Male Large Blue Butterfly
Image by David Simcox
Eggs of Large Blue in transit
Image by Sarah Pitt
Image by Jim Foster
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