Rare butterflies bloom in Hailsham woodland

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RARE BUTTERFLIES introduced into woodland near Hailsham have fluttered happily in increasing numbers – way beyond the expectations of nature experts.

The Pearl-bordered Fritillary species, known for its white ‘pearls’ on the edge of its hindwing, was once considered the flagship butterfly of British woodlands. But the butterflies have declined by 70 per cent in the past 30 years and can only be found in a handful of sites in Southern England.

Some 250 butterflies were counted by the Forest Commission in Abbots Wood last year after the species was introduced there – but the latest count stands at a staggering 628 in the woodland corridors, pathways and open spaces all the way from the heart of the forest to the outer boundaries.

Stuart Sutton, wildlife ranger at the Forestry Commission, said: “The success this year in part has been down to the good weather, which has benefited butterflies nationwide. However the general trend in many other locations is that the Pearl-bordered Fritillary has been in decline, other reintroduction projects have failed time and time again and the species has been hanging on a knife-edge.

“We are thrilled that every year we have seen an increase in numbers here at Abbots Wood but this year the population has grown beyond our wildest expectations. The butterflies have really taken advantage of our carefully targeted management of the forest landscape and tree felling, which provides sustainable timber for British industry as well as open warm and sunny areas for feeding and breeding butterflies.”

Experts believe the woodland’s changing ‘mosaic of open space’ couple with warm and dry conditions for the butterfly larve and there is an amply source of flower with nectar during the Summer season.