The Heath Fritillary is one of Britain’s rarest butterflies and was considered to be on the brink of extinction in the late 1970s. A re-introduction into Essex and continued habitat management has allowed the butterfly’s numbers to gradually grow, and now, the long hot summer has seen a second brood flying for the first time in the Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Belfairs Woods.
The delicate orange and brown chequered butterfly can be seen flying close to the ground in a distinctive flutter and glide pattern. Their colonies in Essex are restricted to where the food plant for its larvae, Common Cow-wheat grows, which requires accurate and continuous habitat management.
Essex Wildlife Trust staff and a group of dedicated volunteers have been managing parts of the woodland for the butterfly and its food plant for a number of years and their numbers have been slowly growing. Generally the butterfly emerges from May through to July, however the climatic conditions this year have meant the larvae were able to grow quickly enough to see a new brood emerge.
The second flight period of the Heath Fritillary here is very exciting, hopefully the mild weather will set things up to be very positive for next year as well.