Rare Chequered Skipper Butterfly reintroduced to England

The Chequered Skipper Butterfly (Carterocephalus palaemon) died out in England in 1976 due to changes in the woodlands. A rise in conifer plantations did not suit the butterfly, which led to their extinction. 

The Chequered Skipper Butterfly exists in parts of Europe, including Belgium. After more than 40 years of extinction, 24 butterflies were caught in Belgium and sent to England by Eurostar in 2018. They were released at a secret site in Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire, as part of a wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation project called “Back from the Brink.”

Another 24 Belgium Chequered Skipper Butterflies were introduced into the English forest in 2019. 

More butterflies were supposed to be released this year, in 2020, but the capture and release was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted in England, the project team were able to return to the forest to record the number of butterflies. Susannah O’Riodan, from the “Back from the Brink” project said that offspring from the 2018 butterfly release are still present in the forest.”It still all looks promising, which is great,” she added.

Ms. O’Riordan said that the project team would be carrying out work on the habitat in the autumn of 2020 to survey the number of butterfly larva.

The Chequered Skipper Butterfly is an insect in the Hesperiidae family of butterflies. It is orange with yellowish spots in a chequerboard pattern. 

Its wingspan measures 2-3 centimetres (about 1 inch). It likes damp grasslands and woodlands and is found in European countries. 

The adult female lays eggs on the underside of a leaf. They take 14-21 days to hatch into caterpillars. The caterpillars eat the plant leaves and pupate. The adult butterfly emerges from the pupa. This process is called metamorphosis. 

[Photograph: from “Back to the Brink” project]

Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

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