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Volunteers work together to help rare butterfly

Volunteers, holding tools and helping to maintain a roadside verge. Published Tuesday, 25th January 2022

Members of West Midlands Butterfly Conservation have teamed up with Worcestershire County Council to help encourage a rare butterfly to keep visiting the county.

The Dingy Skipper is seen at only a handful of sites in West Worcestershire.  One of which is a Worcestershire County Council roadside verge where a population has existed for several years.  

The site in Knightwick where the Dingy Skipper seems to enjoy visiting is one of 45 Roadside Verge Nature Reserves, which are specially managed by the County Council due to the presence of rare plants or insects.

These butterflies need an open sunny sward so volunteers have been attending with brush cutters and rakes to cut back and remove invasive bramble and scrub so as to enhance the habitat to suit the butterflies.

Greenspace Officer Wade Muggleton said: “This is a wonderful site for wildflowers and its exciting that we have Dingy Skippers living on our verge,  it is great to link up with Butterfly Conservation to help conserve the species.”

Butterfly conservation manage a range of other sites across Worcestershire to benefit our native Butterfly population with regular volunteer work parties.

Butterfly populations are currently undergoing fluctuations thought to be related to climate change with some species in steep decline with others expanding their range.

The County Council’s changes to their verge cutting regime has gone a long way to help see a flourishing and diverse natural network of verges across the county.  

The system leaves significant uncut areas available for wildlife and the four-year rotation means that all the county’s verges are cut before scrub invades too far, enabling the wildflower grassland to thrive and remain inviting as a habitat for wildlife.

Councillor Alan Amos, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Highways and Transport said:

‘’Although our primary duty with regards to roadside verges is one of safety, particularly during the summer months, when they grow most quickly, we have made a pledge to support the recovery of pollinator populations within Worcestershire and this includes the way that we now manage the sites. All sites now receive a bespoke approach to ensure that protected or rare species are fully considered when it comes maintenance and it is really positive to hear of our approach yielding results and encouraging rare species to visit our county. The changes implemented over the past few years have seen significant improvement to biodiversity opportunities on Worcestershire’s network.’ 

Worcestershire County Council is very proud of its roadside verge maintenance programme and is also committed to the environment. It has become pollinator friendly to promote the protection of pollinating insects and their habitat.

Dual carriageway verges offer important linear networks for pollinators.  Often referred to a ‘Bee Lines’, they connect previously isolated areas of ecological interest. 

The Council has changed the way it manages it’s 320,000 m2  of central reservations last year, cutting less to leave more for pollinators. The positives are not just for pollinators, the approach also means less time on the network by operatives also leads to less disruption for the county’s road users.