Long-lost butterfly reappears in Norfolk


Large Tortoiseshell is breeding once more in Norfolk, the National Trust (NT) has revealed.

Both adult butterflies and eggs have been observed at the NT's Sheringham Park property, situated just to the south-west of Sheringham, near the county's north coast.

Once common and widespread across Britain, Large Tortoiseshell declined rapidly throughout the early part of the 20th century and was lost as a resident butterfly by the 1960s. Since then it has largely proven a sporadic and unpredictable vagrant, with most records coming from coastal counties in southern England.

After being lost in the county decades ago, Large Tortoiseshell is has been confirmed as once again breeding in Norfolk this summer (Ron Mcintyre).

There has been a noticeable upturn in records over the past decade, with the sudden increase suspected to be linked to warming summers across Europe encouraging the butterfly to move north into territory it was lost from during the 20th century.

And, in June 2020, the species was first confirmed as having bred on Portland, Dorset, following a spate of sightings there in recent summers. The origin of the Portland insects has been debated, with suspicions that a deliberate release was at least partially involved in their appearance and subsequent breeding success.

Nonetheless, the rapid increase in sightings across southern England in over the past few summers, plus news of the Norfolk colonisation, suggests that Large Tortoiseshell is now making a genuine comeback in Britain after several decades away.