Enticing a beautiful butterfly to Whitby

Giving the large yellow brimstone butterfly a helping hand by planting alder buckthorn trees.
Giving the large yellow brimstone butterfly a helping hand by planting alder buckthorn trees.

A new Whitby Naturalists’ Club project is aiming to give a striking species of butterfly a helping hand.

The bright large yellow brimstone butterfly is one of the first to fly in spring, but the area is at the northern edge of its range.

A brimstone butterfly.

A brimstone butterfly.

With the changing climate, species are moving northwards but this causes a problem for the brimstone.

It needs a buckthorn tree for egg laying, as that’s the food plant for its caterpillars and there are very few buckthorns in the Whitby area.

The group’s members are hoping to remedy this by providing alder buckthorns for the butterfly.

Buckthorn for Brimstones was launched less than a month ago, and immediately members of the club signed up to plant 125 alder buckthorns at 25 locations from Ravenscar to Whitby, and up the Esk valley to Danby and Goathland.

The Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire Branch were delighted with this response and has agreed to fund more buckthorns to be planted in public spaces.

The Cinders, a volunteer group working on habitat improvements on the Cinder Track, planted a dozen near Fylingthorpe last Thursday, with more being planted in Calla Beck and the Whitby end of the Cinder track by members of Whitby Naturalists the following day.

Club members’ trees were distributed on Saturday and Whitby in Bloom will soon be setting up a butterfly garden in the Quaker Burial Ground including some alder buckthorn. Parents and children are helping to plant at schools at Airy Hill and Goathland.

North York Moors National Park staff and volunteers will be planting more than 60 along the Rail Trail between Grosmont and Goathland, and the Forestry Commission and National Trust Ravenscar are also taking on small planting schemes.

The project was the brain child of Wendy Holliday, who manages her garden in Ruswarp for wildlife.

She said: “The response has been fantastic!

“Seeing so many individuals and organisations working together is such a positive experience.

“The project has succeeded in providing brimstone food plants in key areas and we hope the butterflies will use them for breeding in the future.”