Saturday, 2 June 2018

Return of selene …

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)




Apart from the unbearable temperature, the one thing I will always remember from the summer of 1976, was the abundance of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary Boloria euphrosyne and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary B. selene. They appeared that numerous in my local woodlands that we took them for granted; after all they would always be there - or so we thought - and of course we were wrong. The last Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary of Sussex descent ever to fly in the county was seen on Saturday, 29th June 2013. At some point during the first week of July that year the species went extinct, both locally and regionally within Sussex.

The habitat requirements of selene and euphrosyne have historically demonstrated a degree of overlap and, on many sites, the two species used to fly together and they certainly did this in my old local hunting ground amongst the forestry plantations of Worth Forest in West Sussex. However, climate change has probably reduced this overlap and, more importantly, has most likely been one of the main driving forces behind the decline and regional extinction of selene.

Now the subject of a reintroduction programme, Butterfly Conservation’s Fritillaries for the Future project, it has recently, following intensive research by project leader Neil Hulme, been reintroduced to its former final outpost. Sunday, 11th June 2017 saw the successful completion of the first part of the programme when more than 400 selene were released as either final instar larvae or adults to Butterfly Conservation’s Park Corner Heath and Rowland Wood reserves and the Forestry Commission’s Abbot’s Wood. Early signs are encouraging with the habitat looking superb during my recent visits to Park Corner Heath and Rowland Wood. I look forward to returning soon. The above images (top to bottom) show (i) male underside, (ii) male upperside, and (iii), female upperside.

References:

Blencowe, M. and Hulme, N. (2017). The Butterflies of Sussex. Newbury, Berkshire: Pisces Publications on behalf of Butterfly Conservation (Sussex Branch), pp. 146-151.

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