Cold winter and bad weather hampers rare butterflies

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The emergence of some rare butterflies is late because the cold spring say local volunteers with the charity Butterfly Conservation.

And they blame the chilliest start to spring for 50 years for delaying some butterflies by up to six weeks.

The charity’s east Scotland branch organiser, Eyemouth-based Barry Prater said: “March, the second coldest since records began, followed a chillier than average winter, with snow on the ground in places well into April, and the weather has failed to improve much so far in May.”

The Comma, Green-veined White and Orange Tip butterflies were about the month late, emerging at the end of April. The appearance of the Green Hairstreak was delayed by only a couple of weeks but the Speckled Wood’s first appearance at the end of the first week of May was six or so weeks later than usual.

But Mr Prater said: “This year’s late spring is not necessarily a bad thing for our butterflies as the emergence of the host plants their caterpillars depend upon will also have been delayed.”

The cold start to 2013 follows the worst year on record for UK butterflies with most species suffering declines last year.

Butterfly Conservation’s surveys manager, Richard Fox, said: “The key factor is what the weather is like over the coming weeks while these butterflies are flying, mating and laying eggs.

“They really need some fine spring weather and a successful breeding season to start rebuilding their populations.”

Meanwhile Butterfly Conservation and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are holding a ‘Murder Moss Mystery Tour’ at Lindean Reservoir, near Selkirk, on Saturday when Scottish Natural Heritage officer Sarah Eno will lead a walk around the reserve looking at the area’s plants, birds and insects from 11am. For more information contact Malcolm Lindsay on 01896 753425 or 07563 515854.