Conservation is a major part of our remit and 2012 saw important and fruitful work. In February a work party cleared a ride at Lullybeg used by butterflies for feeding and by Speckled Woods for breeding. The area also has the potential to attract the Silver-washed Fritillary to breed and evidence of success was recorded [see Lullybeg Reserve Report]. Our project site in the Burren at Fahee North also received attention with two full scrub cutting days in 2012. A work party consisting of members of Butterfly Conservation Ireland and the Burrenbeo Trust Volunteers cleared Hazel scrub from an area of Marsh Fritillary habitat and opened up violets growing under very dense scrub to sunlight. We were delighted to see the results of our endeavours in late May when a Pearl-bordered Fritillary was seen [by Richella Duggan and Jesmond Harding] laying some eggs on violets that had recently sprouted close to the base of a Hazel plant. Previously this area was heavily shaded and unsuitable for breeding. In the autumn more of the dense scrub was opened up in order to connect the main grassland area to the newly cleared areas. The newly cleared parts are now ready to receive the Pearl-bordered Fritillary and we plan to hold a walk there in early June [see Events] to enjoy the butterflies and check on the results of the hard work.
It is envisaged that this work will be ongoing; there is no doubt that maintaining habitats in good condition is vital for biodiversity.
Conservation advice was also given to a number of individuals and bodies, such as the Burren Farming for Life Programme, and conservation issues affecting butterflies that appeared in the media were responded to in order to highlight the urgent necessity to protect vulnerable habitats, especially peat bogs. These responses can be viewed on the archive section of the website http://www.butterflyconservation.ie/wordpress/.
Butterfly Conservation Ireland, following advice from a member, Mr Val Swan, established that a licence is required to operate a light trap to catch moths. Butterfly Conservation Ireland applied for a licence to operate a Robinsons Light Trap and a licence was obtained. Following our example Mothsireland followed suit. This means that we are compliant with the wildlife legislation and the requirement for a licence may deter overseas collectors from activities that damage the populations of our rarest moth species. The licence is valid for five years and allows for the trapping of macro and micro moths for scientific and educational purposes.
Finally, in 2010 we began a campaign to have certain moth and butterfly species given protection from the activities of collectors. All of the species put forward have an extremely restricted range and must be considered a priority. Our proposal is to have certain species added to Section 23 of the Wildlife Acts 1976/2000 by way of statutory instrument. The species that we put forward are: White Prominent, Burren Green, Irish Annulet, Portland Moth, Sandhill Rustic and Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
The latest information is that the process to legally protect the most vulnerable lepidoptera is well underway. We are now awaiting the completion of the process.