A WIRRAL butterfly park is spreading its wings after it was confirmed to be the breeding home of a new species.
The vibrant green brimstone butterfly caterpillars were spotted by a visitor to the New Ferry Butterfly Park after this spring saw the highest numbers of flying adult brimstones when more than 20 were seen on the wing.
The well-camouflaged caterpillars were located in their classic mid-rib position on alder buckthorn leaves trying to avoid the attention of predators.
The presence of caterpillars confirms that breeding has taken place between the striking yellow adults earlier this year – the first ever breeding for the species on Wirral and the 17th breeding butterfly species at the park.
Adult brimstone butterflies have been recorded sporadically in low numbers at the park since 2005 but this year has seen a significant boost with the numbers counted flying during the spring the most ever recorded at the park – which attracted almost 2,500 people last summer.
The alder buckthorns were planted over a decade ago by 4th Bebington Cubs, St John’s New Ferry so the success marks a 10 year wait for volunteers looking after the site which was created from a former railway goods yard.
Paul Loughnane, honorary reserve manager, said: “It is great news for New Ferry Butterfly Park as the adult male butterflies being bright yellow are highly conspicuous.
“Bring the longest-lived British butterfly they have a long flight period, so there is a relatively good chance for visitors to the park to encounter these new residents flying, which adds greatly to their butterfly experience.”
“Brimstone butterflies are largely restricted in their distribution by the lack of their larval food plants, the buckthorns, and they have colonized the park attracted by the presence of the buckthorn shrubs.
“Buckthorns shrubs are rare in the Wirral. Luckily they are powerful flyers and were able to arrive on their own wing power. There are plenty of nectar sources to keep them successfully breeding here.”
Early this spring, with the aid of a Love Wirral Grant, 150 primroses – one of the brimstone’s favourite spring-time nectar sources - were planted at the park.
Barry Shaw, Cheshire County Butterfly Recorder for the Cheshire and Peak branch of Butterfly Conservation added: “Whilst I suspect that not too many contributors actually look for the early stages of Cheshire and Wirral butterflies, I have checked data going back to the year 2000 and this would seem to be the first confirmed breeding on the Wirral, so well done to all at New Ferry Butterfly Park.”
New Ferry Butterfly Park is open on Sundays between 12pm and 4pm.