Sunday, 22 May 2016

Rise of lucina ...

Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina)

West Sussex, 19 May 2016


Long-term distribution and population trends show that H. lucina is in serious decline. It is one of the two most threatened species of butterfly in the UK which, together with the High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe), now faces potential extinction unless conservation measures are successful in reversing the current trend of population losses. It is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts. It is believed that fewer than 100 colonies remain, with West Sussex being at the retreating eastern edge of its southern geographical range, leaving just isolated colonies in Kent. The vast majority of remaining populations are very small, comprising no more than a handful of adult insects on the wing at any time during its late April to early June flight season.

Writing in November 2013, Neil Hulme wrote, “Populations where maximum daily counts exceed 30 butterflies are now very rare and in 2003 the total number of Duke of Burgundy adults seen in the county [Sussex] was 8”, and, “In West Sussex there are now less than a dozen sites supporting the Duke of Burgundy and many of these could be lumped together, leaving just 5 population centres”. Writing further, "At the moment everything seems happy, while the results achieved so far for the Duke of Burgundy have been nothing short of remarkable. As changes in the habitat management took effect maximum daily counts began to rise; 7 and 8 in 2008 and 2009, then leaping up to 51 in 2010 and a mighty 115 in 2011"H. lucina is a fighter and with dedicated conservation work is making a comeback. 2016 is evolving into a fantastic season with numbers that have not been seen in Sussex for three-quarters of a century. My own visits to several sites have revealed respectable numbers. Neil, further to a survey of Heyshott Escarpment on 20th May 2016, recorded, “I generally prefer not to estimate or extrapolate, but it is important to record, even imprecisely, the unprecedented recovery of the Duke of Burgundy, on a site where it had come so perilously close to extinction. Today there were at least 200 Dukes on these remarkable slopes”.

Long may this conservation success story continue …

Watch this space ...

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