Study

Securing viable metapopulations of the marsh fritillary butterfly, Euphydryas aurinia, (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Northern England

  • Published source details Porter K. & Ellis S. (2011) Securing viable metapopulations of the marsh fritillary butterfly, Euphydryas aurinia, (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Northern England. Journal of Insect Conservation, 15, 111-119.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Rear declining species in captivity

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation

Release captive-bred individuals to the wild

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation
  1. Rear declining species in captivity

    A study in 2004–2007 in six captive-breeding sites in Cumbria, UK (Porter & Ellis 2011) reported that a captive population of marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia increased in size over two years. Results were not tested for statistical significance. Two years after 250 caterpillars were taken into captivity, the captive population was estimated at 50,000 caterpillars. In September 2004, the only two caterpillar webs (containing 155 individuals) remaining locally were taken into captivity. In addition, 95 caterpillars from 19 populations (five from each location) in west Scotland were collected. Caterpillars were checked for infection with the parasitoid Cotesia melitaearum. Caterpillars were kept at six separate locations, and reared in natural conditions using large netted cages and pot-grown devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, supplemented with garden varieties of honeysuckle Lonicera spp., snowberry Symphoricarpos albus and wild honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum. The number of caterpillars in the captive population was estimated in spring 2007.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

  2. Release captive-bred individuals to the wild

    A replicated study in 2007–2009 in four wet grasslands in Cumbria, UK (Porter & Ellis 2011) reported that three out of four released populations of marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia increased in size over three years. Results were not tested for statistical significance. Three years after the release of 3,500–22,900 caterpillars/site at three sites, the number of caterpillar webs was 47–240 webs/site, compared to 16–112 webs/site one year after release. However, at a fourth site where 11,000 caterpillars were released, the number of webs remained low (1–10 webs/year). From before 2004, four sites were managed by a combination of scrub control (all sites), removal of trees (one site), reinstating cattle or pony grazing at 0.4 livestock units/ha (all sites), water level management (two sites) and cutting and removal of course grasses (one site) to increase the area of suitable habitat for marsh fritillary (estimated at 7.4–20.0 ha/site in 2007). In March–April 2007, a total of 42,000 caterpillars were released at four sites (3,500–22,900 caterpillars/site). Caterpillars were placed in groups of ~100 on clusters of devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis. From mid-August 2007–2009, every patch of devil’s-bit scabious at each site was searched for caterpillar webs.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

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