Mabie Forest’s colony of Pearl-bordered Fritillary continue to buck the downward UK trend


Wildlife conservation charity Butterfly Conservation and Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) have announced encouraging news about a rare butterfly which is thriving in Scotland. 

The Mabie Forest nature reserve near Dumfries is one of the richest Scottish sites for butterflies, with possibly one of the largest populations of Pearl-bordered Fritillary in Scotland. This butterfly was once very widespread across the UK but has declined rapidly in recent decades and is now highly threatened in England and Wales. 

Butterfly Conservation spokesman Paul Kirkland says: “The Pearl-bordered Fritillary is the first fritillary to emerge and can be found from late April through to mid-June along sunny forestry tracks, in woodland glades and also on south-facing hillsides with bracken. 

“The Mabie North butterfly transect has been carefully monitored for 25 years, latterly by a team of brilliant volunteers, and their skill and dedication means that we can be confident that the Pearl-bordered Fritillary is doing extremely well”.

The graph below shows how this butterfly has benefitted from the management carried out in the reserve. The data collected through the transect is invaluable in encouraging FLS to continue to manage the site for this butterfly, in steep decline south of the border. 

FLS Environment Lead for South region Bill Coombes commented: “Butterflies are recognised as indicator species linked to both climatic and habitat changes. With a large decline in butterfly numbers nationally over the past 20 years the reserve is managed to create a diverse range of micro habitats to cater for all stages of the butterflies’ life cycle. 

“A mixture of sunny and shaded areas in the lowland mixed deciduous forest area affords a rich diversity of uneven habitat structures that support 23 recorded species.

“Forest craft apprentices carry out annual maintenance, consolidating their training by creating glades, deadwood areas, opening up riparian corridors and sowing wildflower seed which all ensure connectivity on the site.’’ 

Habitat management of the woodland rides at Mabie by FLS, with advice from Butterfly Conservation, has encouraged not only the Pearl-bordered fritillary but many other species of butterfly, including Small Pearl-bordered and Dark Green Fritillary, and Wall Brown. 

Butterfly Conservation Scotland and FLS are very grateful to the team of volunteers who monitor the Mabie transect, allowing the effectiveness of the habitat management work to be assessed. (Unfortunately, due to the lockdown, the transect will not be walked in 2020).

Mabie Forest nature reserve is managed jointly by FLS and Butterfly Conservation Scotland, for more info go to