Patches of wildflowers are being grown in Surrey as part of a project to help join up areas of habitat where the county’s smallest butterfly is found.
In Surrey, the Small Blue is restricted to just a handful of patches of chalk grassland on the North Downs where Kidney Vetch, the plant the butterfly’s caterpillar feeds upon, is found.
Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) is launching a project to link up these habitats by growing additional areas of Kidney Vetch and other nectar sources.
Larger linked habitats will provide Surrey’s rare Small Blue with more options to breed and feed and for its population to grow, spread out and cope with the pressures of a changing climate.
The project will focus on the area between Guildford and Dorking to enhance and create a series of habitat ‘stepping stones’ that are rich in Kidney Vetch and other nectar plants.
BC is working in partnership with Surrey Wildlife Trust, the National Trust and local farmers to create this network of flower-rich patches.
Small populations of Small Blue can be found near Guildford and at Box Hill, but there are large gaps in between where the butterfly has not been found for many years.
Rob Fairbanks, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Director, said “This part of the North Downs is one of the most beautiful and important nature conservation sites in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The project provides an opportunity to work in partnership with land owners and conservation bodies that will enhance the chalk grassland to benefit its rich flora and fauna.”
Paul Redsell of The National Trust said “We are particularly pleased to see that the project has brought together a wide range of partners who can all play their part with the proposed works and enable a far more robust and sustainable approach on a landscape scale.”
Andrew Jamieson of Surrey Wildlife Trust said “The project complements Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscape Strategy which includes enhancing the connectivity of habitats and key species between sites of existing nature conservation importance.”
This tiny, dusky-coloured Small Blue can be seen on the wing at the moment. The butterfly lays its eggs on the flower head of Kidney Vetch and the emerging caterpillar will stay on or near the plant until it pupates next spring. Nationally the Small Blue population has declined by 38% since the 1970’s.
The project is supported by the Veoila Environmental Trust and has received contributions from the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, Lower Mole Trust, local parishes and from private donations.
If you would like to get involved in the project by carrying out conservation work, or helping to develop locally sourced Kidney Vetch, Butterfly Conservation would like to hear from you. They would also welcome sightings of the tiny, dusky blue, Small Blue butterfly on the Surrey Downs in June.
Contact Butterfly Conservation for further information www.butterfly-conservation.org