Great news for previously extinct Large Blue butterflies!

Last updated at 06:47
large-blue-butterfly.PA Media
Great news for the Large Blue Butterfly

The Large Blue Butterfly was once extinct in Britain - but now it's made a comeback!

A new conservation scheme at Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons has been trying to introduce the rare butterfly back into the wild.

The Large Blue Butterfly is one of the rarest of Britain's Blue butterfly species, but in 1979 it was officially declared extinct here in the UK.

Since then small numbers of the butterfly have been re-introduced, but this scheme is the biggest one yet!

Around 1,100 of the butterfly larvae were released at the West Country locations, with 750 butterflies successfully emerging.

Conservationists have now found evidence of the butterflies laying their eggs in the wild - a positive sign that they will continue to survive.

butterflies.PA Media

The Large Blue Butterfly has a pretty interesting life cycle, which involves a grisly betrayal!

The butterfly larvae trick a species of red ant into carrying them to their nest where they stay and feed on the ant grubs before emerging as a butterfly the next year.

David Simcox, research ecologist and co-author of the commons management plan, said: "The butterfly needs high densities of the heat-loving red ant Myrmica sabuleti, which has a crucial role to play in the lifecycle of the butterfly.

"The grazing cows create the ideal conditions for them by keeping the grass down so sunlight can reach the soil which gently warms it, creating perfect conditions for the ants, which are cold-blooded and therefore need warmth in order to actively scout for food throughout the spring, summer and autumn."

Small temporary grazing areas were created using fences, to allow cows and long-horn cattle to graze to provide the right conditions for the ants,.

It is the first time for 150 years the large blue butterfly - the largest and rarest of all nine British blue butterflies - has been recorded at Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons.

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