One of Scotland’s rarest and most beautiful butterflies – the small blue – has returned to a former stronghold after travelling from coast-to-coast.
The small blue (Cupido minimus), Scotland’s smallest butterfly, has been extinct from Irvine on the Ayrshire coast since 1983.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation Scotland have teamed up to return the small blue to the site following an absence of 30 years.
Around 30 butterflies were collected from a healthy population on a monitored site on the Moray coast – although moving species is only done as a last resort.
They were then transported 225 miles to the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Gailes Marsh Wildlife Reserve and neighbouring Dundonald Link Golf Course where kidney vetch grows in abundance. The small blue is dependent on kidney vetch to complete its life cycle.
Local Reserves Manager for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Gill Smart, said: “The Scottish Wildlife Trust is very proud to have brought the small blue back to the Ayrshire Coast.
“This project illustrates the need to prevent species dying out in the first place as bringing them back is not a simple matter. However, research was undertaken by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation Scotland into the ideal locations, and hopefully now they will thrive once again.”
Both the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation Scotland are advocates of the landscape-scale approach to conservation. This involves enlarging, improving and joining up areas of green space to create a series of green networks. Species have a better chance of survival if they can move across the landscape. The coastal habitats and golf courses in the south Irvine area are a good example of just such a network.
Scott Shanks from Butterfly Conservation Scotland said: “The most important element was getting the site ready to receive the butterflies.
“Local volunteers have been sowing and planting kidney vetch there for three years. They are delighted that the plants they nurtured so carefully could soon be getting munched by small blue butterfly caterpillars.”