One of the main aims of the Brilliant Butterflies project is to work with local communities and landowners to create new chalk grassland habitat. This rare habitat supports a wide variety of wildflowers and grasses which in turn provide food, shelter and breeding habitat for many butterflies and insects. New habitat will help connect existing areas of chalk grassland and provide a ‘nature recovery network’ to support declining insect populations.
Following a brief delay during the first lockdown we have had great success creating 16 new habitats across Croydon which is nearly half of our target. Another ‘butterfly bank’ will be completed in the near future at Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, where we are excited to be working with English Heritage. The remaining ‘banks’ are currently in the planning phase with projects being finalised in Croydon and Bromley.
We have worked with landowners and local communities to design banks that suit the local environment in the most cost-effective way. For example, at Falconwood Meadow a simple scrape was created that exposes low nutrient subsoil providing the right conditions for wildflower seeding and planting. Once established this new chalk grassland habitat will support declining insect and butterfly populations including the nationally rare small blue butterfly. The small blue always lays its eggs on kidney vetch plants as this is the only plant the caterpillars feed on, also known as the ‘food-plant’, see picture below.