Rare Butterfly Returns

Rare heath butterfly reintroduced into the wild after 150 years.

The pretty little heath butterfly - known as the “Manchester argus” - was once a common sight fluttering around the meadows near Manchester and Liverpool in north west England, but along came the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century - claiming the land for agriculture and extracting peat for fires - and the heath butterfly was wiped out in the area.

However, courtesy of careful conservation work, the species has now returned home. Conservationists from Lancashire Wildlife Trust are hoping to transform the fortunes of this rare butterfly by restoring a 37-hectares of peatland and by creating habitats upon which the butterflies depend, such as sphagnum moss, cross-leaved heath and hare’s-tail cottongrass.

Conservationists from LWT, after a year of gently rearing and breeding six female butterflies (taken from a zoo), are now preparing to release 45 hand-reared pupae on a secret site where they will be kept in protected tents while they emerge from their pupae.

The butterflies rarely fly more than 650m from where they are born so they were unlikely to colonize the area alone, but it's hoped the 'original six' will be a able to form a good colony within the next 10 years.

Good luck and fingers crossed!

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