NIEA discovers rare butterfly previously feared extinct in Northern Ireland
A RARE butterfly, previously thought to be extinct in Northern Ireland, has been discovered.
Bobbie Hamill, a surveyor from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), came across the Small Blue Butterfly - Cupido minimus - in Co Fermanagh.
Last recorded from its only known site in 2001, it was feared it was extinct in the north.
The Small Blue is the north's rarest and most endangered butterfly and is listed as a Northern Ireland Priority Species for conservation action. Although it can be found in other parts of the UK and Ireland, it is undergoing a significant decline.
NIEA's habitat survey team recorded seven butterflies on May 31. They partially attribute this to the unusually warm weather.
"Not only is the Small Blue our smallest butterfly, but unlike other members of its family it is inconspicuous and can easily be overlooked," Ms Hamill said.
"We would especially like to commend the landowners and managers in the area for continuing to graze these special sites in a sustainable manner, creating the ideal conditions for plants to flourish and the Small Blue and other important invertebrates to breed. It is still possible that other colonies of this tiny butterfly are surviving in suitable quiet corners of Fermanagh and beyond, so be on the lookout."
Catherine Bertrand, Head of Conservation for Butterfly Conservation in Northern Ireland, said: "Our volunteers have revisited the site sporadically over the past 16 years since the butterfly was last seen, with no success. We genuinely believed it was extinct from Northern Ireland."