RAU students help a rare butterfly thrive in a golf club

A joint project between the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Cirencester Golf Club has won a prestigious conservation award.

Students from the UK’s RAU Wildlife Conservation Course have been working to improve an area of ​​club grassland which is a habitat for the caterpillars of the nationally rare Duke of Burgundy Fritillary Butterfly, and the project was recently named 2022 Outstanding Environmental Project at this year’s golf course. Environmental Award.

Dr Ian Grange, RAU course leader, said: “The Duke of Burgundy butterfly needs limestone grassland which is now quite a rare habitat. As well as being rare, the remaining habitat must also be in perfect condition. with a balance of grassland, scrub, and a supply of primrose, the butterfly’s main food plant.”

“Alongside the intensively managed greens at the golf club, there are also areas of unspoilt unimproved hilly grassland which have the potential to provide the ideal conditions for these butterflies to thrive.”

“Given the importance of primrose as the main food plant of the Duke of Burgundy caterpillar, our students worked hard to plant primroses in this area and test different methods of grassland and brush management. ‘fits into their learning experience and is often done in conjunction with other conservation organizations such as the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens.

RAU students used the Club’s north-facing grassy slopes to conduct a series of experiments, planting primroses and monitoring whether planted primroses are used for egg-laying and larval feeding.

From these experimental plots, which are regularly monitored, the students also hope to be able to discover the ideal state of the grasslands and the percentage of brush cover for the butterfly species. The results of their research will be used to guide the future management of the golf club grounds.

Matt Worster, Assistant Head Greenkeeper at the Golf Club, said: “This award recognizes the important ecological resource we have here at the Club which, with the help of research conducted by the RAU and its students, is now managed in a sustainable way. appropriate for the benefit of the population of the Duke of Burgundy.”

“It is a joy to work and to be caretakers of such an ecologically special site as Cirencester Golf Club. The research carried out by Ian and the students will help us continue to do all we can to adapt our management of these to help these butterflies flourish.”

“I am very proud that this work has been recognized with this award and I look forward to further developing the partnership with the UAR in the future, for the benefit of our local environment.”

The Club has commissioned an environmental report and, alongside its work on the butterflies, has placed many nesting boxes and insect hotels around the course, as well as beehives from which the club produces honey which is sold at the bar of the club. There are also areas of long limestone grass to encourage insect and bird life, and wild deer also often visit parts of the course.

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