chris.n.cooper CC BY-NC 2.0

Large Blue Butterflies Successfully Returned To UK After 50-Year Extinction

We often hear about animal species on the brink of extinction, because awareness of their need is a huge part of conservation. If people don't know an animal is in danger, they can't do anything to help it even if they would want to.

Those stories are important, but success stories are too. Besides adding some good news to the doom and gloom of our current time, they show people that conservation efforts can and do lead to real progress.

So that's why I was so happy to see a story about how the large blue butterfly has been successfully reintroduced to the UK.

Paul:Ritchie CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Phengaris arion, whose common name is literally just "large blue butterfly," was declared extinct in the British Isles in 1979.

Britain wasn't alone either. Large blues were also listed as extinct in the Netherlands and Belgium, in 1964 and 1996, respectively. Its current official status worldwide is Near Threatened.

It's still unknown what factors led to the population's decline, but after five years of work, conservationists have finally found signs of wild breeding in the UK.


There have been attempts to repopulate the species previously, but the latest and largest took place at the Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons in Gloucestershire, and involved careful preparation of the habitat.

The area hasn't had a documented sighting of a large blue in 150 years.

Plenty of thyme and wild marjoram were planted to ensure the butterflies' major food source was available.

Sinkha63 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The other requirement is a large population of a specific heat-loving red ant species. To help build up that population, cattle was brought to the Commons to graze and to their business, which warmed the soil and promoted ant colony growth.

About 1,100 butterfly larvae were then released into the wild, of which 750 successfully emerging from their cocoons.

fra298 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

And after a seemingly endless wait for them to complete their lifecycles, conservationists carefully inspected the area and found plenty of evidence that the butterflies laid eggs in the wild.

That's an amazing sign and points to a high likelihood that the butterfly population can continue on its own with only a careful guiding hand to ensure their habitat needs stay plentiful.

h/t: CBBC Newsround

Filed Under: