Butterflies survive despite arson attacks

Heysham Moss after arsonists struck earlier this year.
Heysham Moss after arsonists struck earlier this year.

A new plan which will help rare butterflies at a Heysham nature reserve will go ahead despite devastation caused by arsonists.

A previous project to bring the large heath butterfly back to Heysham Moss was thrown into doubt following the latest attack in April.

A large heath butterfly at Heysham Moss. Picture: Reuben Neville.

A large heath butterfly at Heysham Moss. Picture: Reuben Neville.

However, Lancashire Wildlife Trust were delighted to see caterpillars had survived and butterflies were flying on the moss in summer.

The good news went alongside a further boost with funding from Natural England to carry out further restoration work, which is great for the butterflies and the reserve which includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The Trust’s North Lancashire Reserves Officer Reuben Neville said: “Three years ago the large heath butterfly was re-introduced to the reserve as part of a joint project with Chester Zoo. However, earlier in the year the success of the project was thrown into doubt following a series of devastating arson attacks.

“There was a glimmer of hope back in the summer with a few butterflies appearing on the wing despite concerns that most of the caterpillars may have been lost in the fire. While this was reassuring, numbers were lower than expected and the next few years will be critical in enabling them to build a large enough population to be self-sustaining.

“While weather will of course play a part, aiding the recovery of the existing habitat and stopping significant fires in the future will be critical to the future success of the project.”

The work is due to start early in 2018.

A key piece of equipment in responding to ‘moorland’ type fires is now the use of powerful backpack blowers. Anyone who would like to make a contribution to help purchase additional backpack blowers to be gifted to the local fire service please contact the Trust on 01772 324129.