News

Duke of Burgandy - May 2016

On May 8th Neil Hulme (Butterfly Conservation) discovered a female Duke of Burgundy egg laying in Scott's Corner.  He returned on the 12th and found an additional female, a fresher specimen, and also a male.  Duke of Burgundy males fiercely guard their colony sites and do not travel great distances, certainly not the 2.2miles from the nearest colony at Heyshott Down.  It is therefore likely that this potential colonisation took place last year and the male is the result of that.

 

It is still too early to be celebrating a colonisation, but it does, however, demonstrate that the reserve is improving for the Duke and with luck the Duke might be back to stay.

Rare beetle discovered on Graffham Down


There’s been an amazing discovery made at Graffham Down. Last year Tony Davis of Butterfly Conservation was visiting our reserves and discovered a beetle with a long, red body and long antennae. The beetle has now been identified as Cosnard’s Net-winged Beetle (Erotides cosnardi). As a beetle it may not look as impressive as a stag beetle or be as colourful as a ladybird but it is rare. Extremely rare. All the net-winged beetles are rare species but Cosnard’s Net-winged Beetle is the rarest – in fact it’s only been seen in Britain 11 times before Tony’s discovery. The beetle is known from just two areas in the UK; the lower Wye Valley on the Welsh border and the South Downs around Chichester. The larvae of this beetle feed inside old Beech trees and the downland flower meadows of Graffham Down provide an important feeding site for the adults. There’s a real risk of this lovely little insect becoming extinct in Britain so it’s wonderful news that the reserves of Graffham Down are providing a vital home for this animal.

Spring - Wait for it.

Sgt Major Spring was definitely in charge on the morning of April 10 when I went up to the reserves for what I optimistically hoped would be my first butterfly transect.  Wait for it.  The day was warmish, but the wind was the dominant factor keeping insects quiet, but at my feet many of the plants were beginning to wake up to be ready for their pollinators, or be available as food plants for the butterflies and moths on Graffham Down.  Firstly, the violets, the food plant of Fritillary butterflies were noticeable in most of the reserves.  Waiting to be munched by the caterpillars of the large and colourful Silver-washed Fritillary we can all be delighted by in June.

 Wild Strawberries

Tiny flowers of gave away the few colonies of wild strawberry, that will entice Grizzled Sipper butterflies to lay their eggs when they emerge from their pupa in May. These butterflies are very small and difficult to see in flight, but once found the black and white pattern on the wings is unmistakable.  Wait for it.



Small colonies of cowslips were all geared up to emerge in the next few days.  These flowers are of great concern in the management of Graffham Down as they host the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy.  This butterfly is found few sites in Britain, but is plentiful on the neighbouring Heyshott Down.  They once bred at Graffham, but as in many places in the country vanished as their habitat became unsuitable.  They need a plentiful supply of cowslip plants to induce them to lay and even then are picky, selecting only the big plants.  This is to give their caterpillars plenty of available food.  The biggest cowslips grow on north facing slopes, but the mature butterflies need a warm environment.  A tricky management problem.  The best display of cowslips on the Graffham Down is Scott’s Corner.  Wait for it.





Another plant that puts a weight on management shoulders is the Wood Spurge.  This was nearly in flower and is found in many of the Graffham Down reserves, but as its name suggests is a woodland plant, but one that appears to prefer light shade.  The presence of the rare moth, the Drab Looper, depends on it as it uses this as its larval food plant.  This is a neat trick as the plant is filled with creamy latex, the raw ingredient of natural rubber, which it uses to prevent being eaten by small munching mouthparts.  The best place to see this plant is in Paterson, where it appears to be colonising one of the glades we have produced in the last couple of years.  To see the moth itself we’ll have to wait until May 15th when Michael Blencowe opens his moth-trap.  See the events Page for details of Michael's butterfly walk. OK Sgt Major then it’ll be spring.



 
 



Current and Previous newsletters 
   Graffham Down Trust regularly publishes autumn and spring newsletters.  View or downloaded these informative newsletters from the links below.

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