Thursday, 12 April 2018

Warming climate could see butterfly loved by Churchill return to UK

Former PM unsuccessfully tried to reintroduce black-veined white in 1940s, but conditions may now allow species to prosper

Sat 7 Apr 2018 06.30 BST

He was the consummate politician who could bend nations to his will, but Winston Churchill was powerless when it came to butterflies.

The British prime minister hired the country’s leading lepidopterist and spent years attempting to reintroduce two extinct species into his back garden.

Despite his best efforts, and the release of hundreds of black-veined whites and swallowtails in the 1940s, his schemes to have rare butterflies feasting on “fountains of honey and water” at Chartwell in Kent were an ignominious failure.

Churchill may, however, simply have been seven decades ahead of his time: new research has revealed that climatic conditions may be suitable for the black-veined white to fly in Britain once again.

The species – which is still found across much of Europe – became extinct in Britain after a series of disastrously wet autumns in the early part of the 20th century. Now, with average temperatures rising, experts believe it could prosper here once again.

Two studies in northern France, which has a similar climate to southern England, have found that it would be easy to provide for the black-veined white’s needs by creating flowery field margins and allowing the growth of young scrub such as hawthorn and blackthorn.

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