© Colin Barr

Wings in the Woods

Enhancing habitat connectivity by creating stepping stones and corridors to enable rare butterflies and moths to move between colonies.

The Rusland Horizons area is home to some of the UK’s rarest and most endangered butterflies and moths. The Wings in the Woods project focuses on monitoring and increasing the understanding of these species. It will enhance habitats on a landscape scale, creating stepping stone habitat to connect populations. This will help them become more robust, sustainable, less isolated and vulnerable. Habitat restoration for woodland butterfly specialists also benefit many other wildlife groups, including declining woodland birds, species by increasing the ecological niches available through improving woodland diversity, creating new breeding and feeding areas for birds and diversifying the ground plants and shrub layers available.

Butterfly Conservation are working with volunteers to enhance and, where possible, extend existing sites and monitor them to measure success of management. This project dovetails with the Coupes and Cords, woodland restoration project as coppice stands are regenerated; suitable new sites will be identified and the habitat can be enhanced for natural colonisation or reintroduction.

General aims for the project:

  • To survey and monitor the rare and threatened butterfly and moth assemblages, leading to a deeper understanding of their distribution and populations, which in turn leads to advice, planning and implementation of effective management.
  • To offer advice to landowners and land-managers to enhance and improve habitats for the benefit of butterflies and wildlife.
  • To create opportunities for volunteers to be involved with survey work, practical habitat management, enhancement of sites through growing and planting food plants.
  • To offer training and up-skill opportunities for volunteers in species identification and habitat assessment.
  • To encourage research and partnership work with universities and volunteer groups.

So far so good...

Update November 2017...

  • 80 volunteers involved.
  • 9 training events held.
  • 400 plug plants planted.
  • 34 survey days completed.
  • 10 new sites identified for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
  • 200 records for butterflies and moths
  • 5 landowners engaged

Did you know?

The netted carpet moth is one of Britain's most endangered moths. It was heavily collected by the Victorians and thought to be extinct early in the 1900s. It was rediscovered in 1945 and the Rusland Horizons scheme area is one of only two regions where it is found.
The caterpillars (larvae) of the Netted Carpet Moth imitate the seed pods of their food plant the Touch-me-not Balsam, as they grow, to avoid being eaten.

The adult Duke of Burgundy butterflies only live for 5 - 7 days in May, during which time they have to find a mate, and the females have to lay eggs on their foodplant, the primrose.

The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary female will often scatter her eggs during flight over a suitable moist area with violets, rather than placing them on the caterpillar food plant.

The Large Heath butterfly lives in raised bogs and peat mosses in the Rusland Valley where its foodplants of Hare's Tail Cottongrass can be found. They are a favourite food of the Meadow Pipit!


Project Lead

Butterfly Conservation

The Challenge

In 2011, a study compiled by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found that 72% of UK Butterfly species had declined in abundance and that the distribution of 54% had been reduced over the past decade. ‘The State of Britain’s Butterflies’ report identifies the loss of suitable habitats as the main reason for the declines. Woodlands provide breeding habitats for two-thirds of the UK’s butterfly species, but traditional management has ceased in most woodlands and, as a result, our woods are darker, shadier places than they have been for hundreds of years. This means that the food plants for butterflies can no longer grow in under-managed woods.

Our Approach

The Rusland Horizons scheme provides a unique opportunity to combine the woodland management projects with species-focused projects to create structurally complex woodlands, with a diversity of habitats and vegetation, and long-term continuity of management as part of the wider landscape.

Butterfly Conservation are working with volunteers to monitor six endangered species of butterfly and moth which are found in the area. These are high brown fritillary, Duke of Burgundy butterfly, large heath butterfly, small pearl bordered fritillary, white letter hairstreak butterfly and netted carpet moth.

Known colony sites will be studied to establish what makes them successful. These sites will be enhanced and, where possible, extended. Potential new sites will be identified, enhanced and, where appropriate, new colonies will be established or introduced. Breeding habitat will be created by planting food plants.

Can You Help?

We need volunteers

Unless marked as optional, all fields are required

Your Details

Interested in multiple projects? Click here

© Rusland Horizons 2017 - 2019. All rights reserved.
Rusland Horizons is a Landscape Partnership funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund