Duke of Burgundy Butterfly (Hamearis lucina)
The Duke of Burgundy is a rare butterfly occurring in small discrete colonies in scrubby, herb rich chalk grassland and coppiced woodland clearings. Adults fly between early May and mid-June and eggs are laid in small batches on primrose (Primula vulgaris) or cowslip (Primula veris) plants in sheltered sunny locations. The geographic range of the Duke of Burgundy is primarily in central southern England, with isolated populations on the limestone of south Cumbria/north Lancashire and the north Yorkshire moors. The two remaining large populations in South Cumbria occur at Whitbarrow SSSI along Morecambe Bay and in the Rusland Valley south of Grizedale Forest.
What is the conservation status of the species?
The population in the UK has declined by almost 40% since 1979 but has stabilised over the last 20 years with a moderate decline of 7.0%. Many colonies have been rendered extinct or reduced to a few individuals since the 1970s. The Duke of Burgundy is a Section 41 species protected under Schedule 5 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, a UK BAP priority species and a high priority species for Butterfly Conservation. As a habitat specialist, the species has declined in many areas since 1950 due to the cessation of woodland management and overgrazing by sheep, with associated reductions in the distribution and abundance of larval food plants
What are the aims of the project?
The aim of the Duke of Burgundy project is to work with the community and key partner organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, Natural England and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust to reinforce existing populations in South Cumbria and create new satellite populations to expand the geographic range and metapopulation structure of the species.
Over the last few years many existing and potential sites for the Duke of Burgundy butterfly in South Cumbria have been restored by our partner organisations, and now have the mid-successional habitat and abundance of larval foodplants that are required for this butterfly to thrive. Furthermore, our partners have committed to long-term management prescriptions to ensure that these sites are maintained in a suitable condition for Duke of Burgundy in the longer term. Some colonies are likely to go extinct without immediate intervention. Duke of Burgundy populations used to be widespread in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB but have now been reduced to one small colony at Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve.
A range of surveys are being undertaken with the support of dedicated volunteers to assess the habitat for Duke of Burgundy and monitor populations of adults and larvae. Habitat surveys have helped to identify donor and recipient sites for a captive breeding effort, by mapping the distribution of larval foodplants and suitable mid-successional habitat. BOOM will work under close supervision and with appropriate training from Butterfly Conservation to harvest eggs from donor sites if ongoing surveys indicate that there is a surplus. Eggs will be transferred to cowslip plants under carefully controlled conditions until they emerge as adults and can be translocated to suitable recipient sites in May/June of the following year.
BOOM volunteers are actively involved in growing larval food plants of local provenance such as cowslips and primroses which are planted out at priority sites in the autumn and early winter. A schedule of winter work parties will be run every year during the BOOM project to support ongoing efforts by partner organisations to improve the habitat for Duke of Burgundy and other priority butterfly species. Volunteers and key stakeholders will be invited to attend a number of workshops and training events to learn about a range of subjects including captive breeding techniques, habitat management and survey methods.
BOOM project officers and Butterfly Conservation will work with individual farmers to include management prescriptions for Duke of Burgundy into land management plans and countryside stewardship schemes.