Butterfly spotted in Scotland after 133-year absence

Media caption,
The white-letter hairstreak was last seen in Scotland in 1884

A butterfly which has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers has been spotted in Scotland for the first time in more than a century.

The white-letter hairstreak was seen by recorder Iain Cowe near Paxton in the Scottish Borders on 9 August.

It was only the third time it has been spotted in Scotland with the last recorded sighting in 1884.

Butterfly Conservation Scotland is now working to see if a breeding colony has been established in the area.

Mr Cowe said: "It is not every day that something as special as this is found when out and about on a regular butterfly foray.

"It was a very ragged and worn individual found feeding on ragwort in the grassy edge of an arable field."

The white-letter hairstreak suffered its worst year on record in 2016 according to the UK Butterfly Monitoring Survey and, although widespread across England and Wales, has suffered a 72% decline over the last decade.

'Prosper and spread'

The butterfly's caterpillars feed on elm and they declined dramatically in the 1970s as a result of Dutch elm disease.

The species - which has a distinctive 'W' marking on the underside of its wing - has seen its population slowly spread north in recent years.

There are only two previous records of the butterfly in Scotland, one in 1859 in Dumfries and the other in 1884 in Dunoon in Argyll and Bute.

If a breeding colony is confirmed it would take the total number of resident butterfly species in Scotland up to 34.

Paul Kirkland, director of Butterfly Conservation Scotland, said: "We don't have many butterfly species in Scotland so one more is very nice to have.

"Although Dutch elm disease occurs in Scotland, we still have a good amount of wych elm, so hopefully it will prosper and spread, although its arrival here is almost certainly due to the warming climate."

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