Rare butterfly flying high at Drumquin

On Saturday 2nd June 2012, Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland (BCNI) visited Drumquin with the hope of finding local NI priority species of butterfly; the Marsh Fritillary, Small Heath and Cryptic Wood White. The visit was lead by Ian Rippey, chairman of Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland Branch, alongside Catherine Bertrand the Senior Regional Officer in Northern Ireland. Six other enthusiasts joined us too travelling from as far as Newry and Lisburn to see what Drumquin had to offer!

Weather being on our side, the group set of for nearby Drumquin Lough, butterfly nets in hand! In a small meadow beside the lake, the butterfly hunters built on their success and recorded species such as the Green-veined White, the commonest butterfly in the countryside, and slightly more elusive Small Heath. Great excitement was heard from the micro-moth recorders, as the very rare Adela rufimitrella was found hiding away on a small cuckoo flower at the edge of the meadow. This tiny golden moth has only recently been discovered in Northern Ireland and we had no idea we would find it at Drumquin.

With spirits high in the group, we moved on to a nearby site, Dunaree Hill. The main aim of this site was to catch a glimpse of the Marsh Fritillary. After a steep hike through a few flower rich meadows, shouts of excitement from some of the group could be heard. Sitting peacefully on a blade of grass, showing off her beautiful markings was a female Marsh Fritillary…and even better, her abdomen was swollen with eggs!

With the afternoon getting on and some of the troop having long distances to travel back the butterfly hunters decided to call it a day, but not before spying the mysterious Cryptic Wood White hiding away on Bush Vetch, a common purple plant seen in hedgerows.  This simple wild flower is a very important nectar source for all of our pollinating insects. For several years this species has been considered to be the Real’s Wood White, but in 2011, new genetic research showed that there was in fact a ‘hidden’ species within the Real’s Wood White DNA.  Real’s Wood White, which is what we had thought our wood whites were, is now known to be confined to the Pyrenees in Europe.  For some unknown reason, the Cryptic Wood White does not occur in Great Britain but only in Ireland and throughout the rest of Europe. The Cryptic Wood White is known to be over 70,000 years older than the Real’s Wood White, but is impossible to tell apart from it in the field so it was suitably named the ‘Cryptic’ by the scientists who discovered it.