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Changing climate could spell UK return for butterfly loved by Churchill

April 7, 2018

By Paul Homewood


h/t Dave Ward


From The Mail:


The changing climate means conditions in the UK may be suitable again for the return of one of Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite butterflies, experts said.

The black-veined white butterfly was once found across southern England but became extinct in the UK in the mid-1920s, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation said.

Changes in land use were a major factor in declining populations, and once numbers were at a low ebb, a few years of bad autumn weather were sufficient to finish off the species in the UK, the charity’s Professor Tom Brereton said.

Sir Winston was a fan of the butterfly and attempted to release hundreds in the grounds of his Chartwell home in Kent in the mid-1940s, an activity that would be frowned upon today.

Studies have revealed that with climate change over recent decades, average conditions may now be more suitable for the black-veined white again, particularly in the warmer parts of southern and eastern England.

Though the butterfly can be found as far north as Scandinavia, it needs warm weather in late May and early June, with temperatures of 19C required for the adults to become really active, Prof Brereton said.

Two recent studies in parts of northern France that have a similar climate to southern England found it would be easy to recreate the habitat the butterflies need, by creating field margins rich in wildflowers and patches of scrub.

The results of the studies were revealed at Butterfly Conservation’s international symposium in Southampton.

Fabrizia Ratto, from the University of Southampton, who conducted one of the studies, said: “Our study found that the butterfly has a strong preference for small isolated bushes of Blackthorn and Hawthorn as egg-laying sites with abundant nectar sources such as red clover nearby.

“These habitat conditions can be recreated relatively easily in the UK through the implementation of agri-environmental measures such as nectar flower mixes in crop margins and by allowing some scrub regeneration beside adjacent hedgerows.”

Sir Winston is thought to have become a butterfly enthusiast during his time as a young officer stationed in India.

His plans to release the black-veined white were thwarted by his gardener who accidentally cut the nests of the young caterpillars from the hawthorn bushes where they had been carefully placed.

Before a modern attempt to reintroduce the species is made, more research is needed to see if conditions really are right for them, and whether they could withstand the increase in extreme weather events which are also the result of the UK’s changing climate, Butterfly Conservation said.

But while climate change poses a threat to many UK species, the warmer average temperatures could provide an opportunity for the black-veined white, with a reintroduction a possibility in the future. 

What on earth gets into the minds of these idiots?

Butterflies thrive in warm climates, not cold ones. Apparently these little beggars were quite happy flying around in southern England, before habitat changes all but wiped them out.

Given that they are still thriving throughout most of Europe, it is clear that climate does not enter into the equation.

Butterfly Conservation then go on to wheel out the usual nonsense about the increase in extreme weather events which are also the result of the UK’s changing climate.

Yet it was extreme autumn weather that finished the species off in the UK in the 1920s.

This appears to refer to some really cold autumns in the 1910s and early 1920s. (Autumn rainfall was not unusually high at that time).

England Mean temperature - Autumn


As with most species of butterflies, a warmer climate will be beneficial. It is habitat change however which is the real issue, not imaginary extreme weather.

  1. Gamecock permalink
    April 7, 2018 9:27 pm

    The Mail likes Churchill now?

  2. John F. Hultquist permalink
    April 7, 2018 10:15 pm

    This is a case where the real issues are ignored and a false one put up in neon lights.
    The real problems require that folks actually do something.
    For the false one, quote Al Gore or the Pope; put up wind turbines, outlaw coal and the ICE. These can be done by sitting on one’s arse and hitting the keyboard.

  3. bobn permalink
    April 8, 2018 12:58 am

    Who says we want these butterflies back? As a farmer we spray pesticides to kill predatory butterflies and caterpillers that destroy our food supply. Before any idiot introduces another predator butterfly into the environment we need to fully explore how it may interfere with the ecosystem. Fortunately, as these have gone extinct before, it would appear other species out compete and destroy them. Note that the swan and other water bird population is now in decline since reintroducing otters. Otters love swan eggs for breakfast and then a tasty signet for lunch.They then finish the evening with Carp, trout or salmon in season. Great, another top predator to eat everything in sight! Anyone still breeding Otter-hounds? My dobermanns hate the water but do a good job on rabbits and deer.

    • Bloke down the pub permalink
      April 8, 2018 10:14 am

      I’d rather the otters got a meal than the mink which had been released into the wild by ‘animal-lovers’.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      April 8, 2018 11:47 am

      Robin Page wrote of the RSPB’s obsession with raptors and pointed out just how much meat the new population of Red Kite consumes. Soon people will wonder where all the smaller birds have gone and farmers complaining of loss of lambs.

      In his recent series Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall looked at the wild boar in the Forest of Dean, which is wonderful when they are in the Forest of Dean, but with no predation the population has grown and is causing damage outside the Forest. The series also looked deer damage to young trees with a wonderful solution to the problem – shoot them and eat them. They did cover the idea of introducing wolves – and why not bears too – but I am sure the Forest is not big enough anymore to support a population and they would soon be outside the Forest attacking livestock. Having eliminated the top predators in the forests we have to get over being soppy and get shooting.

  4. Silver Dynamite permalink
    April 8, 2018 6:14 am

    I listened to Prof Brereton on the TV news yesterday. At the start of his interview he said that climate change would allow this native species to thrive once again in the south if England.
    At the end of his interview he said that climate change was threatening native species elsewhere.
    Therefore climate change is helping native species and climate change is harming native species.
    Do these people ever reflect on their gibberish?

  5. mothcatcher permalink
    April 8, 2018 8:33 am

    I don’t think anybody has a real handle on why the Black-veined White disappeared from the UK. Unlike all of its close relatives, it is an insect that lived in small, discrete colonies, where numbers fluctuate dramatically from year to year. Although I’ve not studied the insect myself, my guess would be that parasitic wasps which destroy the larvae will turn out to be the major factor in those fluctuations (as they are with many insect species), and if land use changes were involved, it would be that they fragmented the habitat and isolated the colonies from cross-introduction. Of course climate may play a part in the UK – a succession of atlantic-dominated winters and springs may periodically take its toll (the butterfly seems to have been most frequent in the southeast and in limestone areas, which have a more ‘continental’ microclimate).

    Don’t be surprised if a reintroduced population succeeds, flourishes, and crashes again as before.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      April 8, 2018 11:39 am

      A case for Jim Steele. In his excellent Landscapes and Cycles book he shows how exactly how these sorts of extinctions can happen to small colonies. The Channel is probably too great a barrier to colonies re-establishing in good conditions.

  6. dave permalink
    April 8, 2018 10:45 am

    “…parasitic wasps…”

    About 3/4 million species. Talk about “Nature red in tooth and claw!”

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