Butterfly Conservation Project

A Butterfly conservation project started in our local area in Swan Meadow, to encourage the small colony of endangered White Letter Hairstreak Butterflies. This involved planting disease-resistant Elm trees (supplied by Hilliers) because these Butterflies are entirely dependant on the Elm for their reproduction cycle.

A local group, The Upper Thames Butterfly Conservation Group, initiated the planting of 3 disease-resistant elms in Swan Meadow (some Elms have also been spotted in Langley Park) and they ended the Elms during their early growth. The trees have developed well; this is a photo of the largest tree:

This project is still in its early stages as these butterflies need mature Elm trees to thrive.

The White-letter Hairstreak is a small butterfly with an erratic, spiralling flight typical of the hairstreaks. It is distinguished by a white ‘W’ mark across the underside. The dark upper side is only seen in flight as the butterflies always settle with their wings closed. Adults are difficult to see because they spend so much time in the tree canopy, although they occasionally come to ground level to nectar on flowers near elm trees or scrub saplings. The species declined during the 1970s when its foodplants were reduced by Dutch Elm Disease, but it is recovering in a few areas. The caterpillars feed on the elm leaves.

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