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Consistent oviposition preferences of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly over 14 years on a chalk grassland reserve in Bedfordshire, UK

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Ashe-Jepson, E. 
Hitchcock, G. E. 
Knock, R. I. 
Lucas, C. B. H. 


Abstract: The Duke of Burgundy butterfly (Hamearis lucina) is known to have specific habitat requirements for its larval foodplants. However, no studies have yet investigated whether these preferences vary over time or in relation to climate, and there is a paucity of data on whether management on reserves can replicate preferred conditions. Here, we build upon existing research to confirm which characteristics Duke of Burgundy prefer for their larval foodplants, whether preferences remain consistent across years, and whether conservation management on reserves can replicate these conditions. Fieldwork was carried out at Totternhoe Quarry Reserve, a chalk grassland site in Bedfordshire, UK. Confirming previous research, we found that large Primula plants in dense patches were chosen for oviposition, but that once chosen there was no preference to lay eggs on a plant’s largest leaf. Chosen foodplants were also more sheltered and in closer proximity to scrub than their controls. However, at a finer scale, we found little evidence for any preference based on differences in microclimate, or vegetation height immediately surrounding the plants. This suggests features that alter microclimatic conditions at a larger scale are relatively more important for determining the suitability of oviposition sites. Nearly all preferences remained consistent over time and did not vary between years. Management of scrub on the reserve was able to reproduce some preferred habitat features (high plant density), but not others (large plant size). Implications for insect conservation: The consistency of findings across years, despite inter-annual variation in temperature, rainfall and number of adults, indicates that the Duke of Burgundy is conservative in its foodplant choice, highlighting its need for specific habitat management. Targeted management for foodplants could form part of a tractable set of tools to support Duke of Burgundy numbers on reserves, but a careful balance is needed to avoid scrub clearance leaving plants in sub-optimal conditions.


Funder: Christ's College, University of Cambridge (GB)

Funder: Isaac Newton Trust; doi:

Funder: Museums Association and Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund (GB)


Original Paper, Butterfly, Calcareous grassland, Climate change, Habitat management, Hamearis lucina, Oviposition

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Journal of Insect Conservation

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Springer International Publishing