October 1st, 2016

Protecting butterflies at Mary Arden’s Farm

Updated: 4:15 pm, May 07, 2015

MARY Arden’s Farm is set to become a home to rare butterflies.

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is hoping both the Dingy and Grizzled Skipper will be attracted to a specially built ‘butterfly bank’ at the Wilmcote former home of Shakespeare’s mother.

Mike Slater from Butterfly Conservation’s Warwickshire branch, who helped oversee the project, said: “A butterfly bank is basically an open, sunny area of raised ground with very limited vegetation on it and lots of rocks. These semi-bare patches of ground provide a microclimate up to 20 degrees celsius higher than the surrounding area, which encourages the faster hatching of butterfly eggs and rapid growth of caterpillars.

“It’s really about creating some extra habitat for these beautiful insects. Not only will this bank improve connectivity between other butterfly sites, it will be a place for them to breed, rest and feed.”

The bank will only require occasional weeding and Mike is hoping it will attract the rare skippers next summer.

He added: “Both of these butterflies are declining in numbers, but I’ve seen similar initiatives like this work really well in attracting rare species from nearby sites, with some even deciding to colonise the new habitat.

“If this doesn’t happen and we don’t get the Skippers, I would at least expect to see species like the Common Blue and Small Copper using the butterfly bank next year.”

Mary Arden’s Farm, one of the five Shakespeare family homes cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, was recently awarded Best Farm Visit at this year’s Organic Awards.

The creation of the ‘butterfly bank’ was decided upon following extensive conservation work to restore a barn on the site.

Farm manager Joe Moore explained: “We had tonnes of soil and rubble left over from the excavation of the barn. Using the excess materials to create the bank was a great way of improving the environment, as well as cutting down on expensive landfill costs. It was completed around three months ago now and we’re all excited to see what butterflies it will bring here next year.”

Shakespeare would undoubtedly have approved, and often referred to butterflies in his plays. In Coriolanus he spoke of ‘a very pretty boy. I saw him run after a gilded butterfly…’ and again in King Lear, when the doomed King explains his wish to ‘laugh at gilded butterflies’.

Butterfly Conservation is the largest charity of its type in the world. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats.

Visit www.butterfly-conservation.org for further details.

A Grizzled Skipper. (s)

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