The Stone Centre proves a great location for Butterflies

Ever heard of Dingy Skipper, Wall Brown, Small Heath or White Letter Hairstreak? They are all rare types of protected butterflies, and if it wasn’t for the National Stone Centre, they would be rarer still.

The six former limestone quarries that make up the National Stone Centre nowadays carry an interesting variety of wild plants and flowers, attracting an abundance of insects, such as bees and butterflies. Last year we invited the Butterfly Conservation to come and help us with a butterfly survey.

The Butterfly Conservation is a British charity devoted to saving butterflies, moths and their habitats throughout the UK. The aim of the organisation is to stop the alarming decline of many butterfly and moth species in Britain.

Ken Orpe, Butterfly Conservation recorder for Derbyshire, along with a number of experienced volunteers, set up a fixed route, which saw them walk the same route once a week for 26 weeks, to establish what types of butterflies the National Stone Centre hosts.

Ken and his colleagues were delighted when it soon became evident that the site contained four ‘BAP’-registered butterflies, meaning that they’re on the UK’s ‘biodiversity action plan’ list and that active steps are taken to bring the species back to healthy numbers. During their visits the Butterfly Conservation recorded the Small Heath, the Dingy Skipper, the Wall Brown and probably the rarest resident butterfly in Derbyshire - the White Letter Hairstreak, which is totally reliant on elm to survive.

Small Heath
Dingy Skipper 

 Small Heath - Ron Turner Dingy Skipper - Dave Evans    
Wall Brown male  White Letter Hairstreak 
 Wall Brown (M) - Derek Brownlee White Letter Hairstreak - Colin Bowler

Over the last 40 years the White Letter Hairstreak has become the most declining species in the whole of the UK, largely due to the effects of Dutch elm disease. Fortunately, there are a number of Wych elm trees on site at the National Stone Centre, and the White Letter Hairstreak will hopefully continue to thrive as long as the elms remain healthy and undisturbed.

The total number of butterflies recorded during Ken’s time at the National Stone Centre came to over 1,000, consisting of 24 species, together with some interesting day flying moths. There have also been interesting sightings of the Peak District version of the Brown Argus together with the day flying moth, Wood Tiger, both of which are very local to the Peak District.

With about 30 butterfly species regularly recorded across the UK each year, there is every possibility that additional butterfly species will be recorded at the National Stone Centre in 2016. The Butterfly Conservation has already signed up six volunteers who are eagerly awaiting another exciting butterfly season at the National Stone Centre.

Anthony Elgey, Trustee of the National Stone Centre, said, “This is great news that the Stone Centre is providing rare species an environment where they can flourish.”

Brimstone male  Comma  Common Blue - male 
Brimstone (M) - Brian Romans  Comma - Ken Orpe  Common Blue (m) - Dave Hatfield
 Painted Lady  Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell  Red Admiral
 Painted Lady - Mark Searle  Peacock & Small Tortoiseshell- Willy Lane Red Admiral - Jane Rogers
Holly Blue - Female Orange-tip Male Wood Tiger Moth
Holly Blue (F) - Ken Orpe Orange Tip (M) - Mick Ball Wood Tiger Moth - Ken Orpe