Making Butterflies Count… The Tale of the Towngate Elms and the White-letter Hairstreak

4 August 2020
Claire Hector

Have you taken part in the Big Butterfly Count with Butterfly Conservation yet? We’ve still got til Sunday 9th August to take part… just set aside 15 minutes for this multicoloured citizen science project… here’s the link to the ID sheet so you can tick off what you spot. .
The White-letter Hairstreak isn’t on this species list but it is high on the priority conservation list instead and it’s one we’re pleased to have made count.
We’ve long been championing specific trees on the Isle of Wight, chief of which is the growing family of disease-resistant elms. A few years back now, we advised the local authority on the planting of elms in our county town, Newport as part of the Towngate project. Elms are the food species of choice for White-letter Hairstreak and the butterfly, helpfully identified by the white W stamped on its wings, had suffered catastrophic decline through Dutch Elm Disease back in the ’70s. Thanks to IOW Butterflies and Moths recorders, we had the brilliant news a couple of years back that Hairstreaks had been spotted at the top of the Towngate elms.
It may be a while til they’re common enough to spot for the Big Butterfly Count (and they fly high making them tricky to find!) but it’s a real urban rewilding success and one we’re proud to have been part of!

A large helpful arrow points out the elms for you….

Towngate is as the name suggests, one of the historic gateways into Newport… now busier than ever and making The Towngate Pond and green space restoration an important pause, meeting spot and shopping antidote for both people and wildlife.


The Towngate Elm planting was accompanied by the river restoration on the Lukely and a heritage sculpture trail.


Thanks to Isle of Wight Butterflies & Moths for the snap here. Just hoping to hear they’ve been spotted at our other elm plantings too…