But­ter­fly plan for Cool­lat­tin es­tate

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS - By MYLES BUCHANAN

BUT­TER­FLY Con­ser­va­tion Ire­land and the owner of an­cient wood­land on Cool­lat­tin Es­tate, lo­cated just be­side Shil­le­lagh, are col­lab­o­rat­ing to en­hance the es­tate for but­ter­flies and moths.

The own­ers have al­ready car­ried out im­por­tant work to re­in­state na­tive wood­land on the es­tate. Large blocks of non-na­tive species such as rhodo­den­dron, lau­rel, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce have been re­moved.

In 2016, 10,000 na­tive oaks were planted to re­store the an­cient oak woods. Oak is vi­tal for one of Ire­land’s scarcest but­ter­flies, the beau­ti­ful and elu­sive Pur­ple Hairstreak. Else­where, open ar­eas have been left un­planted to grow herbaceous veg­e­ta­tion at­trac­tive to but­ter­flies, moths and a range of in­ver­te­brates.

How­ever, a great deal of bio­di­ver­sity loss was sus­tained dur­ing the long pe­riod that the es­tate was mainly un­der non-na­tive trees and shrubs. Many ar­eas lack low-level veg­e­ta­tion such as grasses, ferns, wild­flow­ers, and other ground cov­ers.

Fol­low­ing an assessment of the es­tate in June 2019 by Jes­mond Hard­ing of But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion Ire­land, a plan is now in place to re­store those ar­eas within the woods and to cre­ate wild­flower habi­tats in the open ar­eas.

Jes­mond Hard­ing said: ‘The vision shown by the owner of Cool­lat­tin is an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of gen­eros­ity and care for bio­di­ver­sity. At But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion Ire­land, we urge everyone who has land to em­brace this change. Only by restor­ing nat­u­ral habi­tats will a bio­di­ver­sity re­cov­ery oc­cur.’

Rec­om­men­da­tions aimed at bio­di­ver­sity en­hance­ment will see re­ten­tion of vi­tal na­tive trees in­clud­ing wil­low, birch, hazel and holly which are rich in as­so­ci­ated insects and other in­ver­te­brates.

Na­tive food­plants of cater­pil­lars will be planted in suit­able ar­eas in the woods. One ex­am­ple is the Com­mon Dog-vi­o­let for the cater­pil­lar of the Sil­ver-washed Frit­il­lary, Ire­land’s largest but­ter­fly. In­creas­ing the nec­tar re­source on the es­tate for but­ter­flies, moths, bees and other pol­li­na­tors is also planned.

The over­all aim of the project is un­do­ing the dam­age caused by the com­mer­cially-driven forestry prac­tices un­der­pinned by vast plant­ing of non-na­tives which elim­i­nated na­tive habi­tats along with the as­so­ci­ated an­i­mals.

Many of Ire­land’s but­ter­fly species are in de­cline. With­out the right habi­tats this de­cline will not be re­versed.

Brian King­ham of Cool­lat­tin Es­tate said: ‘The re­turn of our na­tive but­ter­flies to Cool­lat­tin will be a colour­ful com­ple­ment to our newly planted ar­bore­tum.’

The Pur­ple Hairstreak but­ter­fly.

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