During late summer and officially in September 2018, I started at South West Lakes Trust (SWLT) as the new ecologist. I started volunteering for the Trust in 2016 when I did my university placement at Burrator. In my new role, I will be involved with the ongoing Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) project and the overall conservation of our sites.

In July, SWLT teamed up with the Cornwall Butterfly Conservation to search the Crowdy marsh area for butterflies and moths, known collectively as the order Lepidoptera. The eastern side of Crowdy reservoir is covered by the Bodmin Moor north SSSI and is designated for its fabulous habitats and associated wildlife which includes the marsh fritillary butterfly.

We looked in particular for the larval webs of the marsh fritillary. These butterflies have declined across the UK and Europe and currently have a vulnerable European status. They are now confined to just the Western side of Britain and Ireland. This butterfly is protected under different forms of wildlife legislation which ensures that the butterfly itself and its habitat is protected from deliberate disturbance. This butterfly depends on high quality grassland habitats with a richness of devils-bit scabious plant. This is the butterfly’s only food plant and is where it lay its eggs.

Although we were looking for marsh fritillary larval webs, we also recorded any other Lepidoptera that we saw. These records will enable us to see if the conservation works that are currently happening at Crowdy reservoir are improving the habitats and the diversity of species.

Sadly, we did not find any marsh fritillary larval webs but we did find the devils-bit scabious plant and 24 different species of butterfly and moths (including the common blue butterfly, the meadow brown butterfly, broom moth, large yellow underwing and many more). We will re-visit next summer to see if we have more or different species using Crowdy reservoir and if we can find any larval webs!

If you would like to read more about the marsh fritillary butterfly please look on the Butterfly Conservation website. If you would like to be sent a copy of our records from the search day or if you would like to get involved by volunteering please email me.

Emma Scotney
[email protected]