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Have you a special butterfly species in your garden?


By David G Scott

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THE wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is asking people in Caithness to keep an eye out for a small but brightly-coloured butterfly, the small copper.

Small copper populations have fallen by a third in Scotland over the past decade, and sightings from members of the public are important in helping researchers find out what’s happening to this beautiful butterfly.

Project officer Anthony McCluskey said: ‘Small coppers are delightful little butterflies, and their declines in Scotland are a great concern for us.

"Finding out more about where they are can help us to conserve them.

The numbers of small copper butterflies has been dwindling in Scotland. Picture: Mark Searle
The numbers of small copper butterflies has been dwindling in Scotland. Picture: Mark Searle

"Observing wildlife is known to have a wide range of mental health benefits. This can be a mindful activity during these uncertain times and one which will help contribute to scientific research too."

The butterfly can be seen in gardens and parks, and also found along paths and cycle routes so it may be seen on daily exercise outings.

The charity is urging people to respect Government advice on social distancing by only recording the butterfly if they happen to find it as they take their normal exercise, and not to travel anywhere to find it.

Small coppers can often be seen basking in sheltered sunny places, especially where there is some bare ground.

The small copper butterfly could be in your garden. Picture: Mairi McIntosh
The small copper butterfly could be in your garden. Picture: Mairi McIntosh

Their caterpillars feed on wild sorrels, which are the smaller relatives of the docks that people use to relieve nettle stings.

With their wings open they are a little larger than a 50p coin, but they are easily overlooked as they are rarely seen in large numbers.

The upper sides of the wings have distinctive bright orange and black markings.

Depending on the spring weather the butterfly can emerge in Scotland between the middle of April and middle of June, disappearing until late summer, when a second brood emerges.

You can report your sighting of small coppers at www.butterfly-conservation.org/scottishsmallcopper


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