Hedge management boosts rare butterfly

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ButterflyImproving hedges by proper hedgerow management helps to conserve the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly and also aids other wildlife. Often, in the same way as coppicing, laying hedges and managing them, besides trimming them, is seen by certain self-proclaimed ecologists and environmental experts as bad for wildlife but neither the proper management of hedges nor coppice management of woodlands is. It is actually of great benefit to wildlife and trees, and in the case of coppice woodlands also to the people and local economy.

The Brown Hairstreak butterfly was thought to be extinct in the West Midlands until its rediscovery in 1970 in an orchard. Since then, local landowners have helped the colony to expand.

According to Jane Ellis of Butterfly Conservation, the Brown Hairstreak

requires blackthorn hedgerows on which to lay its eggs. It responds positively to "sensitive" hedgerow management.

The biggest problem that we have today, however, as regards to farm and roadside hedges is that they are no longer being properly and sensitively managed but get hacked with a flail without ever being laid properly.

In addition to that there are too many hedges that are planted today with other shrubs than those that are beneficial for the likes of the Brown Hairstreak and others and the hedges are, if planted, are all too often planted without real thought and method.

This is the same with woodlands that are allowed to fall into disrepair short of destruction for lack of vision and resultant from that lack of proper management. Private woodlands, as well as and especially council owned woodlands are so affected, and while there is little that can be done as regards to those in private hands but, maybe, applying to the owners if they want them managed, those that are publicly owned by councils, whether county councils or municipal or parish councils should be handed over, for management, to cooperatives, or other interested parties.

© 2016

For more on coppicing and why, etc. see “Managing our Woods”, a small book that explains the whys and wherefores of managing our woods in this way and calls for us to return to that way.