Get Out and Help the Butterflies

People visiting Lambourn will have a chance to create a habitat for rare butterflies next Saturday.

Sheepdrove plants benefit butterflies and moths


The Sheepdrove Rare Butterfly project is planting shrubs and carrying out woodland edge work to benefit butterflies and moths.

The farm is hoping to support new butterfly populations by restoring its fields to chalk grassland, which encourages the growth of wild flowers.

Sheepdrove Farm has been successful in re-introducing species.

For example, the Small Blue butterfly, by creating suitable habitats on its land.

However, biodiversity manager Jason Ball, hopes to attract even more species such as the Marsh Fritillary, Duke of Burgandy and Dingy Skipper.

He said: “We have to get the habitats right before the last local colonies die out. Each butterfly has its own particular taste in food, plants and habitat characteristics.

“Small Blue was the first butterfly off the UK Biodiversity Action Plan to make it to the farm.

“I was thrilled to see them laying eggs on the very plants we had grown from seed.”

The project will also help rare moths to flourish by planting native Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Barberry (Berberis vulgaris).

Sheepdrove project

Attracting the rare Barberry moth is a long term project for the farm.

According to Mr Ball, Barberry Carpet moths enjoy eating the barberry shrub. However, in past years, barberry shrubs were ripped out of England’s hedgerows by farmers because they harbour a rust fungus that can affect cereal crops.

He said: “Modern varieties of crops are resistant to the disease, so we’re bringing this bush back. Hopefully the moths will find it one day – Barberry Carpet has been found in Oxfordshire. Meanwhile the Barberry is a wonderful food source for bees and birds.

Mr Ball explained that hawthorn provided shade and shelter for butterflies.

“I’ve seen small bushes make a big difference for some butterflies on a windy day,” he said. “Cowslips already grow in our target areas – and I hope that in future we’ll see the endangered Duke of Burgundy arrive at Sheepdrove.”

“We would encourage like-minded landowners to try a butterfly project of their own. Small Blue would be easy on the Lambourn Downs – all you need is zones of bare chalk, seeded with Kidney Vetch.”

SOURCE

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