The high brown fritillary is a large, brown and black patterned butterfly, with distinctive brown markings under the wings.
The favoured habitat of this butterfly is woodland, scrubby grassland, limestone pavement or common land which has a matrix of bracken and violets. The butterflies lay their eggs on bracken but also require violets in the undergrowth, which are the food plant of the caterpillars.
The high brown fritillary could once be found widely spread around the UK. Since the 1950s the abundance of this butterfly has dramatically declined. In the past, farmers used to collect bracken for bedding, which ensured that the bracken didn’t become over-dominant. The loss of this farming practice has led to significant loss of the violet food plant from sites. Reduction in woodland coppicing practices, agricultural improvement and loss of grazing animals have also been attributed to this.
In South Wales, a small population of high brown fritillary can be found at Ogmore Down in the Vale of Glamorgan. Careful management by a team of dedicated volunteers is ensuring that this population is preserved.
How is PONT working for this butterfly?
Just a short drive away in nearby Bridgend, Coity Wallia Commons are a potential site for the high-brown fritillary to make a comeback. At these commons, the bracken had become over-dominant due to a reduction in the collection of bracken for bedding and in grazing animals, and high brown fritillaries have not been sighted here since 2000. PONT has taken measures to improve the habitat for high brown fritillaries by rolling the bracken, then introducing Red Ruby Devon cattle on a cattle leasing scheme to reduce the dominance of the bracken.
PONT has experience of managing livestock grazing across many different sites and situations. We offer practical solutions to address barriers that prevent the introduction of livestock grazing onto sites. Barriers may be a lack of knowledge on livestock or grazing systems or more practical issues such as infrastructure, dog management, water provision and access. Get in touch if you would like our help or advice.
Ellis, S & Wainwright, D & B. Dennis, E & Bourn, Nigel & Bulman, Caroline & Hobson, R & Jones, R & Middlebrook, I & Plackett, J & G. Smith, R & Wain, M & Warren, Martin. (2019). Are habitat changes driving the decline of the UK’s most threatened butterfly: the High Brown Fritillary Argynnis adippe (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)?. Journal of Insect Conservation. 10.1007/s10841-019-00134-0.