Cotswold Greats


Marsh frit­il­lary

The marsh frit­il­lary is a strik­ing but­ter­fly, its che­quered wings call­ing to mind an ex­quis­ite stained glass win­dow.

It was once wide­spread across the UK, but pop­u­la­tions have de­clined to the point that the in­sects are now con­fined to the western side of Bri­tain and Ireland.

Mid-may to mid-july is usu­ally the time to see the marsh frit­il­lary, which tends to stick to damp grass­lands dom­i­nated by tus­sock­form­ing species; chalk grass­lands and, in Wales, Scot­land and North­ern Ireland, shorter coastal grass­lands. Tem­po­rary colonies can also exist in large wood­lands.

The main food plant for cater­pil­lars is the devil’s-bit scabi­ous, field scabi­ous and small scabi­ous.

Con­ser­va­tion work to en­cour­age pop­u­la­tions to in­crease has been un­der­way for sev­eral year, and the best places to see the marsh frit­il­lary in the Cotswolds in­clude Straw­berry Banks na­ture re­serve (be­tween Oakridge Lynch, France Lynch and Chal­ford), which is also a strong­hold for the rugged oil bee­tle. This site con­sists of two fields sur­rounded by wood­land and scrub. Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust re­serve man­ager Alan Sum­nall is cur­rently work­ing with the But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion’s Back from the Brink Cotswold Project to help pro­mote pop­u­la­tions of the marsh frit­il­lary.

Marsh frit­il­lary

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