Today, I went to Hafod Garegog National Nature Reserve in Beddgelert, North Wales to manage the habitat for the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly. The Silver studded blue butterfly is a coastal species which prefers short grasses and heathers to lay their eggs in. The butterflies are not strong fliers and are unable to move far or fly very high which means if the habitat has too much growth the population of the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly can suffer. The habitat must also favour ants due to the symbiotic relationship between the butterflies and ants. The ants actually take in the butterfly eggs and, raise and feed the caterpillars, which in turn produce a sugary sap which the ants feed on. Female Silver studded blue butterflies will only lay their eggs if they detect the presence of ant pheromones; therefore it is essential to maintain the habitat to benefit both the butterflies and the ants.
Hafod Garegog is not coastal, however, it was once a tidal floodplain prior to the building of the cob at Porthmadog. As the butterflies do not move far they cannot move to find more suitable habitat therefore maintaining the habitat at Hafod Garegog is essential to ensure the most northern population of the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly persists into the future.
I worked with the organiser of the Snowdonia Society and other volunteers to clear gorse and bog myrtle from ant mounds at the nature reserve so that the Butterflies are able to utilise the habitat. The National Trust is going to burn the heather to make sure that it is at the optimal height for the butterflies now that the gorse and bog myrtle is cleared.
The experience was great and the organisers at the Snowdonia Society and the National Trust ecologists were very friendly. I feel that I learnt a lot about these butterflies and I can use the skills learnt to help in the future. I would recommend volunteering for the Snowdonia Society as they are very friendly, teach relevant skills and you will learn a lot from the experience.