Sunday, 24 July 2016

Rare bog butterfly flutters back from brink

By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News

23 July 2016 

A small bog in Lancashire is once again home to a rare species of butterfly, for the first time in 100 years.

The large heath butterfly has been disappearing from northern England, where it was once common.

But after three years of careful captive breeding, scientists from Chester Zoo say they have established a stable wild colony at Heysham Moss.

Only two other locations in Lancashire play host to this fluffy brown species, which thrives in low, damp boglands.

Chester Zoo
"They've not been at Heysham for at least 100 years," said Heather Prince, an invertebrate keeper at the zoo.

"They've found museum specimens that date back to the 19th Century, labelled Heysham, so we know they were there historically."

But in Lancashire and elsewhere, disruption of their peatland habitats saw numbers plummet, Ms Prince explained. Drainage is good for farming and housing, but bad for bog-based bugs like the large heath butterfly.

"They used to be so common that one of its names was the Manchester argus. But obviously now in Manchester, you'd probably never ever see it."

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