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Butterflies at Lower Winskill

Butterflies at Lower Winskill.

Getting the right habitat for butterflies is a key aspect of how the pastures and hay meadows at Lower Winskill are managed.

Grazing is carefully controlled so butterflies have the right plants for their caterpillars and an abundant supply of nectar from wild flowers.

Butterflies have a remarkable life cycle. It begins as an egg laid by a female butterfly on a plant; after hatching there is a larval stage when the caterpillar eats leafy material for food, then a phase of dormancy as the caterpillar pupates until it emerges as a fully formed butterfly, and begins the final part of its life to find a mate, and so continue the cycle all over again during which time butterflies feed upon nectar from flowers.

In partnership with Natural England as part of the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme we help butterflies at different stages in their life cycle. The Northern Brown Argus butterfly, for example, only lays eggs on Rock Rose, and this is the sole food plant for this now rare and threatened butterfly. So we encourage the spread of common Rock Rose by restricting sheep and cattle grazing on the limestone pastures where the Rock Rose grows. This will provide the colony of Northern Brown Argus butterfly which live in the Scar Edge pastures at Lower Winskill with lots of rock rose plants for their caterpillars to feed upon.

By carefully managing where and at what times of the year sheep and cattle graze on different parts of the farm we make sure that butterflies have the plants they need to lay their eggs upon so their caterpillars have the right food to eat. More general caterpillar food plants such as nettle are left to grow especially where the clumps are in sunny locations. These provide food for the caterpillars of Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies.

Careful management of sheep and cattle grazing is also the key to make sure that butterflies have a source of nectar from wild flowers throughout the summer. Some of the limestone pastures are not grazed until early autumn to make sure there are lots of late summer nectar plants for the butterflies such as Common Knapweed and Devil's Bit Scabious. This also ensures butterflies have a variety of small-scale habitats in close proximity to each other with clusters of grasses and wildflowers at different heights.

Other insects such as bumblebees benefit too from having wild flowers available throughout the summer. Wild flower seed also provides food for small mammals and birds such as Meadow Pipits and Goldfinch.

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Below you will find a gallery with some of the many pictures we have taken of the butterflies here. If you rest your mouse over a picture it will give you a description of that picture. Click any of the pictures for a closer view.