Bough Beech Volunteers - Brown Hairstreak Butterfly

Posted by Andrew Thomas on 12th September 2021

Bough Beech has hedges along the field boundaries of mixed native species, including Blackthorn, which are not cut back every year in the way farm hedges are cut hard with a flail. This has allowed them to grow both tall and deep and form a scrub of Blackthorn suckers at their base. This is the ideal habitat for the Brown Hairstreak butterfly providing food for the caterpillars and low growth where the butterfly lays its eggs.

Recent discussions with Butterfly Conservation had confirmed that there are Brown Hairstreak colonies recorded at Edenbridge and that the species appeared to be slowly moving east wards towards Bough Beech. Maybe it could be introduced to Bough Beech as a bio-diversity project?

Nature, ever unpredictable, has beaten us to it. The Bough Beech Volunteers regular task on Sunday 12th September was to cut the Hay in the Damson Field and thin some areas of scrub. A new volunteer pointed and asked “What’s that butterfly?”. The task leader looked and (now an excited task leader) shouted Brown Hairstreak!

This is the first recorded sighting at Bough Beech. A return visit during the week found eggs laid on the Blackthorn scrub at the base of the hedge. Scrub is important to wildlife, providing nesting, food and shelter for many species. It is a threatened habitat, even on nature reserve there is a tendency to manage and tidy things up. Bough Beech had been untouched since February 2020 and nature has used this wild growth. Nature likes untidy and needs to be accommodated.

This is exciting news and increases the wide bio-diversity at Bough Beech.

The Brown Hairstreak is locally distributed in southern Britain and has undergone a substantial decline due to hedgerow removal and annual flailing, which removes eggs and the caterpillars’ food plant. It is a high priority conservation species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and listed as a Section 41 species of principal importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act in England.

For more information see butterfly-conservation.org/butterflies/brown-hairstreak.

If you are interested in joining in with our work please contact Becky at bore Place at volunteering@boreplace.org.

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