Welcome to the Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies are not only beautiful and fascinating creatures but are also highly responsive to the environment. David Attenborough described them as 'A thermometer of the health of our natural world' Almost every species of butterfly is in decline and a quarter are facing extinction. We have lost more than 97% of our traditional meadows and woodland in recent times so it is crucial we raise awareness about the threats facing our butterflies, moths, their habitats and our natural environment. Yorkshire Branch work in partnership with land owners, local authorities, conservation bodies, businesses and the local community to achieve this.

Here in Yorkshire the Duke of Burgundy and Pearl Bordered Fritillary are particularly vulnerable due to habitat loss and increasingly susceptible to extinction. Yorkshire also has the only remaining colony of the Dark Bordered Beauty Moth in England, on Strensall Common and is on the brink of extinction.

Become a member today and help us save butterflies, moths and their habitats. There are many rewarding roles volunteering in recording and conservation; you will be surprised to find out what is on your doorstep! We have a real challenge when 60% of children in the UK have never seen a Peacock butterfly according to a YouGov Survey and 78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature.

Website Updates: Autum Newslettter Argus 88 is ready Photo Competition deadline is October 31st 2020 . Yorkshire Branch AGM postponed to Spring 2021

Your Guide to the Website

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Nature is in crisis. Play your part to protect our planet. Butterfly Conservation are calling on you to be YourOwnButterflyEffect and make changes in your life. From how you eat, shop, garden and even enjoy nature itself, discover how you can make a difference see here


20th October Argus 88 Autumn newsletter is ready to download here

14th October Martin White, whose story is told in this long read, devoted his life to reviving lost nature. Many people disagree with his work. Others may recognise our world would be less beautiful without his efforts. Very sadly, he passed away yesterday. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/13/maverick-rewilders-endangered-species-extinction-conservation-uk-wildlife

He is pictured below with a mating pair of Mazerine Blues. Yorkshire owes him a great deal.

8th October The Earth-shot Prize. The Duke of Cambridge and Sir David call for ideas to save our planet. The most prestigious global environment prize in history will incentivise change and help to repair our planet over the next ten years – a critical decade for the Earth. More: http://bit.ly/earthshot11

6th October Netflix: ' A Life on our Planet' This should be compulsory viewing for all children and adults alike.

Science Spotlight

Provide shady spots to protect butterflies from climate change, say scientists at Cambridge + Lancaster

Researchers have discovered significant variations in the ability of different UK butterfly species to maintain a suitable body temperature. Species that rely most on finding a suitably shady location to keep cool are at the greatest risk of population decline. The results predict how climate change might impact butterfly communities, and will inform conservation strategies to protect them.

The results, published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology, show that larger and paler butterflies including the Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) are best able to buffer themselves against environmental temperature swings. They angle their large, reflective wings in relation to the sun, and use them to direct the sun's heat either away from, or onto their bodies. These species have either stable or growing populations.

More colourful larger species such as the Peacock (Aglais io) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) have greater difficulty controlling their body temperature, but even they are better than their smaller relatives like the Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus).

The study found that some butterfly species rely on finding a spot at a specific temperature within a landscape -- termed a 'microclimate' -- to control their body temperature. Air temperatures vary on a fine scale: a shaded patch of ground is cooler than one in full sun, for example. These 'thermal specialists', including Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), have suffered larger population declines over the last 40 years.

All butterflies are ectotherms: they can't generate their own body heat. "Butterfly species that aren't very good at controlling their temperature with small behavioural changes, but rely on choosing a micro-habitat at the right temperature, are likely to suffer the most from climate change and habitat loss," said Dr Andrew Bladon, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, and first author of the report.

He added: "We need to make landscapes more diverse to help conserve many of our butterfly species. Even within a garden lawn, patches of grass can be left to grow longer -- these areas will provide cooler, shady places for many species of butterfly. In nature reserves, some areas could be grazed or cut and others left standing. We also need to protect features that break up the monotony of farm landscapes, like hedgerows, ditches, and patches of woodland."

Landscapes with a diversity of heights and features have a greater range of temperatures than flat, monotonous ones. This applies on scales from kilometres to centimetres: from hillsides to flower patches. Such structural diversity creates different microclimates that many butterflies use to regulate their temperature.

The research involved catching nearly 4,000 wild butterflies in hand-held nets, and taking the temperature of each using a fine probe. The surrounding air temperature was measured, and for butterflies found perching on a plant, the air temperature at the perch was also taken. This indicated the degree to which butterflies were seeking out specific locations to control their body temperature. In total, 29 different butterfly species were recorded.

The study reveals that butterflies are either thermal generalists or thermal specialists, and this does not always correspond with their current categorisations as either habitat generalists or specialists.

"As we plan conservation measures to address the effects of climate change, it will be important to understand not only the habitat requirements of different butterfly species, but also their temperature requirements," said Dr Ed Turner in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, who led the work.

He added: "With this new understanding of butterflies, we should be able to better manage habitats and landscapes to protect them, and in doing so we're probably also protecting other insects too."

Over the past thirty years, many species of butterfly have expanded their range northwards, as more northerly places have become warmer due to climate change. The ranges of species adapted to cooler environments are shrinking. These trends have been tracked for butterfly populations as a whole, but no previous study has investigated how the individual butterflies that make up these populations are able to respond to small scale temperature changes.

Full article here


Welcome to the New Website

It might have a new look bringing together all our social media as a 1 stop shop but we have included as much as possible of the old site so lovingly created and maintained by Jax Westmoreland and we thank her for her many years service. Its a legacy we treasure and we wish her well as Nick Hall takes on the role of webmaster. Our objective with creating the new site was that it should be dynamic with fresh content every time you visit as well visual and interactive. We wish to make our Yorkshire butterflies more accessible with our 'Sites' section with an interactive map and walks. We want to tell you more about what we do and about the 100's of volunteers that help on work parties, recording and transects. There is likely much we have missed and many errors so please do flag them. Coming soon: Where, When and How for finding each of our species with fieldcraft tips along with identification guides, the Top 50 sites to visit in Yorkshire and a guide to our Day flying moths. Please do make suggestions or even a contribution and let me know what you think of the new website. webmaster@yorkshirebutterflies.org.uk