Returning to the Bog of Allen Nature Centre to Discover a Spectacular Year for the Large Heath Butterfly
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council is a charity (CHY6829) working towards the conservation of a representative portion of peatlands for people to enjoy today and in the future. The work of the charity involves a variety of areas including education, habitat and species monitoring, habitat restoration, research and policy development. During lockdown with all education and awareness, restoration intiatives and species monitoring on hold it was the behind the scenes programme of work that the Irish Peatland Conservation Council carry out for peatland conservation that was brought to the forefront. Policy submissions at both local and national level, reviews and submissions on planning applications that may have an impact on peatland habitat, peatland research and peatland education resource development are just some of the areas that the charity was kept busy with during lockdown. Now that restrictions have been eased, staff and volunteers are delighted to be back at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre which is open to visitors following all Covid-19 guidelines, for the safety of everyone. The annual habitat and species monitoring has also resumed and what a welcome back!
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council are thrilled to announce that 2020 was a spectacular year for the Large Heath Butterfly with 43 recorded on Lodge Bog, a raised bog nature reserve in Co. Kildare. To put this into context last year a total of 18 butterflies were recorded during the same survey.
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council have been recording the Large Heath on Lodge Bog in partnership with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to establish a scientific monitoring strategy and to obtain information on a long term basis regarding the abundance of this butterfly. Very little is known about its population in Ireland as it is unrecorded. This valuable data collected will allow for the assessment of pressures or threats to the butterfly on raised bog habitat.
Why is it necessary to monitor the Large Heath? Paula Farrell, Campaign Officer with the charity explains ‘This medium sized butterfly is restricted to wet peatland habitats in Ireland. Butterflies are indicator species and convey the health of a habitat. Their presence or absence provides an insight into changes in the bog ecosystem. For example, when peatlands are drained, the peat substrate becomes much drier and therefore, the plant community begins to change. The likelyhood of the larval food plan, cottongrass, to disappear increases. This has a huge impact on the population.’
How to recognise this butterfly in the field? This medium sized butterfly has an erratic flight and flies low over vegetation. It has a short flight period with adults on the wing from June to August. The underwings are brown and orange with darker eyespots. The orange colouring on the underwing is a clear contrast from the colours of its habitat and makes it easily identifiable in the field.
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council are open for visitors at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre Monday-Friday 10am-4pm. Come visit the centre and learn more about the wet and wild peatlands of Ireland and maybe you will encounter the Large Heath Butterfly on Lodge Bog this Summer.
Image: © Tristram Whyte