Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Butterflies at the Long Nanny

The Long Nanny reserve is not just an amazing place because of its nesting Terns; but also for its incredible sand dune system.  Teeming with wild flowers and the pollinators that feed upon them, it's well worth an explore!

© Vicky Knight

This year, the ranger team have spotted 14 different species of butterfly on site.  With 3/4 of the 59 species in the UK declining, the Long Nanny reserve is an important habitat for these beautiful insects.

Butterflies are recognised by the government as indicators of biodiversity.  Their fragility makes them quick to react to change so their struggle to survive is a serious warning about our environment.

Assistant Ranger Vicky Knight has been monitoring the Long Nanny site this summer. "My favourite and probably most common butterfly on this site is the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)." she says. "In the butterfly family Lycaenidae (or the blues), around 50% of all species are associated in some way with ants.  This relationship varies between species, ranging from loosely and unspecific to strictly obligate.  With Common Blue butterflies, the larvae secrete nutritious droplets from a specialized gland which ants feed upon.  In return the ants protect the larvae from parasites and predators.

© Vicky Knight

"Another welcome visitor to the site is the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), one of our largest species.  A very powerful flyer, the Painted Lady is well known for its ability to migrate great distances.  They fly between 500m and 1km up in the sky during migration and can reach a speed of 30mph.  Over a series of steps by up to six successive generations, this species undertakes a 9000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic circle- almost double the length of the famous Monarch butterfly in North America.

© Vicky Knight

"Another of my favourites is the Dark Green Fritillary.  The most widespread fritillary in the UK and found in huge numbers at the Long Nanny reserve.  It is a very powerful flyer, being able to live in windy coastal habitats.  Its larva feed upon the Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana) which is plentiful on site.  Thistles are a favourite nectar source- often seeing two or three Dark Green Fritillaries feeding off one flower."

© Vicky Knight

Help Butterfly Conservation get a better understanding of butterfly populations and distributions in your area by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count.  It has all ready started and needs as many people as possible to take part.  Visit for more information.

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