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Conservation project helps butterflies to thrive at rail station

PUBLISHED: 16:20 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:20 06 November 2019

A Brimstone butterfly. Picture: Matt Berry, Butterfly Conservation Trust

A Brimstone butterfly. Picture: Matt Berry, Butterfly Conservation Trust

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A railway station has become a haven for a species of butterfly - thanks to the efforts of a volunteer.

Sue Cox (left) receiving an award for her work at Somerleyton station at this year's Station Adopter Awards. Picture: Greater AngliaSue Cox (left) receiving an award for her work at Somerleyton station at this year's Station Adopter Awards. Picture: Greater Anglia

Sue Cox, who looks after Somerleyton rail station under Greater Anglia's Station Adoption initiative, planted a Buckthorn hedge last year to help with Suffolk Butterfly Conservation's Brimstone and Buckthorn project.

Alder and Common Buckthorn are the only food plants of the Brimstone butterfly's caterpillar, making them totally reliant on it for survival.

Although not endangered, the Brimstone was once described as "scarce" in East Suffolk and, along with all insects, saw a decline in its numbers due to habitat loss.

Mrs Cox said: "We often see first generation Brimstone butterflies here in early Spring, emerging from hibernation on a warm sunny day to look for nectar and mates. "But we very rarely see the second generation.

"So I was rather pleased to see a very fresh, very green male Brimstone nectaring on the Wild Pea on the platform at the beginning of August.

"It wasn't until the evening that it occurred to me that the sighting was only a couple of feet from my Buckthorn hedge.

"The next morning, I was out as soon as it started to warm up, to see if I could find another. And there it was. Same place, but not nectaring. This one was so freshly emerged that it was still drying its wings - so it couldn't have come from anywhere else!

"I felt rather as though I'd pulled off a magic trick that I hadn't really believed in."

Greater Anglia's customer and community engagement manager, Alan Neville, said: "It's amazing what Sue has achieved at Somerleyton over the years, which has become a real haven - not only for the Brimstone butterfly, but also many other creatures thanks to her efforts.

"She knows every plant on her platform and has encouraged plants which attract lots of different wildlife to provide a habitat for birds, small mammals and insects which at the same time looks stunning and provides a lovely first impression to people visiting the village by train."

Julian Dowding, secretary of Suffolk Butterfly Conservation, added: "Individual actions can have a really positive effect and can help to reverse the decline in insect populations."

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