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Swallowtail numbers rise on the Broads

PUBLISHED: 10:37 05 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:55 16 September 2010

Anthony Carroll

Record numbers of the rare and exotic Swallowtail Butterfly have appeared in the Broads this summer - the first increase in nearly 100 years.

The Swallowtail, Britain's largest butterfly, draws enthusiasts from all over the UK to the Broads.

Record numbers of the rare and exotic Swallowtail Butterfly have appeared in the Broads this summer - the first increase in nearly 100 years.

The Swallowtail, Britain's largest butterfly, draws enthusiasts from all over the UK to the Broads. This year large numbers of Swallowtails have been seen at How Hill National Nature Reserve, Hickling Broad and Strumpshaw Fen from late May until early July and a rare second brood is extending the Swallowtail season into August.

Swallowtails were once widespread across the UK but they are now found mainly only in the Broads.

The rise is thought to be due to successful fen management over the last 15 years which has resulted in an increase in milk parsley which provides food for the Swallowtail caterpillars.

Numbers declined sharply in the 1920s when the demand for thatch and marsh hay for London cab horses diminished bringing about a decline in the reed and sedge cutting industry. This left the marshes overgrown and neglected. By the 1980s much of the open fen had been lost and milk parsley could not survive in the scrub which meant there was limited food for the caterpillars.

In the late nineties the Broads Authority, a member of the National Park family, set in motion a fen management strategy and together with the Norfolk and Suffolk Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Natural England, National Trust and private landowners began harvesting the fen and clearing scrub which had been invading the fen since the Second World War. Government funding from agri-environment schemes to landowners has financed much of the work.

Andrea Kelly Head of Conservation at the Broads Authority said: “This restoration programme is a fantastic demonstration of how public funding is providing magnificent wildlife results for seven million visitors who visit the Broads magical waterland each year. More visitors are saying that they have easily spotted Swallowtails this year.”


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