Moss blazes wipe out rare butterflies

Heysham Moss after the fire.
Heysham Moss after the fire.

Arsonists could have wiped out rare butterflies after fire swept across their habitat at Heysham Moss.

Three years ago the Lancashire Heath butterfly was reintroduced to Heysham Moss as part of a joint project with Chester Zoo. Until three years ago, the butterflies had been extinct for more than 50 years.

A Large Heath butterfly at Heysham Moss.

A Large Heath butterfly at Heysham Moss.

The recent fire has swept across the Moss destroying much of the habitat that is currently supporting the establishing Large Heath colony.

While many of the plants will recover slowly over the next few years it is a serious blow to the ongoing restoration of this special place that is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Critically, the fire has also almost certainly wiped out any chance of survival of the Large Heath.

The reserve is owned by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and LWT Reserve Officer Reuben Neville said: “The fire has probably destroyed the caterpillars which are active among the vegetation at this time of the year and any that have survived will struggle to find any remaining food plants.

“Whether this was arson or just carelessness it will have a serious effect on years of work restoring habitat here and is a huge blow to the work of the re-introduction project. It is heartbreaking for everyone involved.”

“People need to understand the devastation they can cause by starting fires on precious areas for wildlife. It is not only those today, but future generations that may lose out on the chance to see this rare and beautiful butterfly here in Heysham again.

“It can only be hoped that one day they may appreciate the implications of their selfish and mindless actions.”

A number of Year 4 pupils from Trumacar Primary School helped to release the first Large Heath butterflies onto the Moss in 2014.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service were not called out but said the fire could have burnt itself out.