Branching out for the Hair Streak with Elm

Monday 14th November 2016

Buglife’s Urban Buzz project, together with the City of Cardiff Council will be planting several varieties of elm tree on five sites in Cardiff between Bute Park and Forest Farm to provide important habitat for the White-letter hairstreak butterfly which has declined by 53%  in the UK since the 1970s.


Elm trees, once common across Britain, have drastically declined since the 1970s, when Dutch elm disease ravaged populations across the country. The White-letter hairstreak breeds and lays eggs on elms and so also suffered when they lost this vital food source for their caterpillars.


Michelle Bales, Conservation Officer for the Urban Buzz project said “If we really want to make a difference to declining insect populations it is important to provide habitat not only for the adult forms, such as butterflies, but all stages of the insect’s life cycle which is often overlooked”.


There are a few known populations in Cardiff and it is these which the project is targeting to ensure habitat for these insects. Russel Hobson, Head of Butterfly Conservation Wales, provided advice on elm trees for White-letter Hairstreak. He said: “Bute Park is a known hotspot for this butterfly in Cardiff so it is great that the Urban Buzz Project is able to link up populations so they continue to thrive in future.” A range of elm tree species will be planted to increase the number of trees at specific sites. As well as these varieties, Buglife have secured 25 trees bred from Dutch elm resistant trees from The Conservation Foundation.


David Shreeve, director of The Conservation Foundation, adds, “We’re delighted to be helping Buglife’s Urban Buzz project by providing trees from The Great British Elm Experiment. The elm has been a feature of the British landscape for centuries and these trees will help provide new habitats for the White-letter hairstreak butterfly in Cardiff.”


Planting will start in National Tree Week (26th November – 4th December) and continue into 2017. Hopefully this will support the longer-term recovery of White-letter hairstreaks, which are protected under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, 2006 and are classified as a high Butterfly Conservation priority.


Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Bob Derbyshire, said:  “The presence of trees can have a real impact on quality of life for residents, as well as improving the environment for the pollinators we all rely on as an essential part of our food chain.  Cardiff is already a fantastic city for nature with a wealth of green space to enjoy and explore but projects like Urban Buzz are really helping to enhance our public spaces.”


Buglife’s Cardiff Urban Buzz project, which is supported by Biffa Award, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Heritage Lottery Fund, works in partnership with the City of Cardiff Council to engage with local communities to create over 100 new places for our precious pollinators. They are enhancing public green spaces by planting flower-filled pollinator patches, wildflower meadows and providing new pollinator nesting sites.


If you’d like to get involved in the project or be kept up to date with our progress or any events then please vote, donate, visit our website or contact Michelle Bales.