EU protected Irish rare butterfly under threat-Help required

Marsh Fritillary Butterfly – Irelands only protected butterfly under EU Law

By Paul Carton 

A nationwide search is underway for the habitat of the Marsh Fritillary, a rare species of butterfly in Ireland, which is listed as a vulnerable species by conservationists. It is of great interest to the EU and the island of Ireland to protect their habitats which is listed under ‘Special Areas of Conservation’ in the EU Habitats Directive and it is the only Irish butterfly protected under EU law.

As of 2015 the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) has been running an All- Ireland Marsh Fritillary Monitoring Scheme.

This involves the work of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. The species had been missing for 25 years from Turraun Bog in Offaly until it re-appeared last year.

Marsh Fritillary larval webs NBDC-Damaris Lysaght_LongIsland_Cork_

The NBDC is asking the public if they do see the larvae to take a photo and send it in to them.  The centre also have information booklets and tutorials on how to record these sightings and join in the scheme through their


The monitoring centre don’t collect the butterflies but are interested in where its larvae are laid. The caterpillars construct fist-size larval webs on its favourite food plant which is a wildflower called Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis). These webs only occur in late August and September.

Devils-bit Scabious; the sole food plant of this caterpillar

The Irishtown Nature reserve has had a great number of sightings of different species of butterfly but unfortunately this particular one hasn’t been seen there. However the wildflower that is specific to this caterpillar is unfussy about where it grows which include pastures, hedgerows aswell as marshes. Considering the habitat of these butterflies are given special conservation status it might be possible to sow these seeds yourselves preventing any future developers moving in. Just a thought.