The Trust is glad to confirm one of Scotland’s rarest butterflies – the small blue – is thriving in Ayrshire, two years after an ambitious translocation project.
The small blue (Cupido minimus), Scotland’s smallest butterfly, was locally extinct, having last been seen in Irvine near the Ayrshire coast in 1983. The Scottish Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation Scotland 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. Relocating species in this way is only undertaken as a last resort and requires approval.
They were then transported 225 miles to the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Gailes Marsh Wildlife Reserve where kidney vetch, a plant that the small blue is dependent upon, grows in abundance. Populations of this plant had been boosted on the reserve and the adjacent Dundonald Links golf course prior to the release.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve Manager for Southwest Scotland, Gill Smart, said: “The Scottish Wildlife Trust is very proud to have brought the small blue back to Ayrshire.
“Last summer we did not spot any small blue butterflies and were concerned that, despite picking an ideal location, the translocation had not been successful. However, it seems the small blues did breed last year and had simply eluded us. ”
The Scottish Wildlife Trust advocates a landscape-scale approach to conservation. This involves enlarging, improving and connecting 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 this type of network.
To find out more about landscape-scale conservation, read the Scottish Wildlife Trust publication Living Landscapes: towards ecosystem-based conservation in Scotland.