Rare butterfly discovered in Scottish Borders

White Letter Hairstreak.
White Letter Hairstreak.

More than 130 years after it was last seen in Scotland, the rare white letter hairstreak butterfly has returned, landing in the Scottish Borders.

Iain Cowe, of Chirnside, discovered the butterfly last Wednesday as it was nectaring on ragwort, a common wildflower, north of the River Tweed near Paxton House.

The 49-year-old butterfly recorder, who has been a member of the Butterfly Conservation for 10 years, said: “It will be around 130 years since a record of any type was noted.”

Since then very little has been known about the butterfly’s status within Scotland.

There are only two previous records of the butterfly, named after the white lines found underneath its wings, having been present in Scotland, one in 1859 at Dumfries, and in 1884, at Dunoon. The species is known to live in the tops of elm trees throughout England and Wales and although difficult to spot, its numbers declined in the 1970s when the Dutch Elm disease spread.

Iain added: “The white letter hairstreak’s arrival in Berwickshire has been very much anticipated by Butterfly Conservation Scotland, and volunteer recorders in the south of England who have been monitoring its progress for a decade. The discovery of this arboreal species that lives high up in the canopy and is incredibly difficult to locate, gives volunteers and enthusiasts some confidence now going forward, that we will be able to locate the Butterfly more widely across Berwickshire, the Borders and beyond. It’s important we can monitor these changes to our butterfly fauna as milder winters and warmer temperatures have favoured some species and yet threatened some of our resident species.”