Monday, 21 October 2019

Count The Duke In.......Primrose planting for the Duke of Burgundy.

A rare British butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, has been in sharp decline over the years through loss of habitat, climate change, and intensified agricultural practices.

Conservationists, including the National Trust in partnership with Butterfly Conservation are attempting to protect this species from the danger of  extinction.

 The butterfly is mainly to be found in Central and Southern England with isolated colonies in Southern Lake district, Morecambe Bay area, and The North York Moors.

 Unlike warmth loving butterflies, the Duke is intolerant of open downs and will not prosper in dark, dense woodlands. It is extremely picky about its habitat!

However, it does thrive, albeit in low numbers, on extensive or lightly grazed  grassland and scrub (see above image), or open or coppiced woodlands...

...just as long as there are sufficient numbers of primroses, (see image) or cowslips. These plant species are the only food-plants for the Duke of Burgundy's caterpillars.

Under a Natural England... Countryside Stewardship Scheme... National Trust land at  Moor How is grant funded with the Duke of Burgundy very much in mind.

Taking a break from the National Trust's farm at High Lickbarrow, a small herd of  the rare Albion cattle, up to the age of eighteen months, have Moor How as their grazing allotment from May to October each year. 

They have been called conservation grazers as they help to establish the right conditions for the Duke of Burgundy. Cattle do not graze as close down to the ground as sheep. Unlike sheep, cattle  use their tongues to pull tufts of vegetation into their mouths. As they graze, tussocks of grass are formed in which the caterpillars can pupate successfully.

As cattle have wide mouths they do not overgraze or target specific plants...this results in a highly diverse habitat benefiting both insects and small mammals.

A "first heifer" at Moor How.
The Duke of Burgundy has not been seen at Moor How as yet but with a colony close by it is hoped that they will spread to Moor How given time. This has happened in areas where clusters of suitable sites have been maintained. For instance, last Summer, numbers of these butterflies have increased significantly in Kent, Sussex, and North Yorkshire.

Primroses have been brought in to add to the numbers at Moor How.

 They have been planted throughout the year, with the last batch planted in October.

 The light grazing regime, coupled with the increasing numbers of primroses planted, should ultimately make Moor How a highly suitable site for the Duke of Burgundy.

Hopefully there will soon be news that the first Duke of Burgundy butterfly has been seen at Moor How!

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