Butterfly Conservation - saving butterflies, moths and our environment
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saving butterflies, moths and our environment
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Brimstones and Buckthorns Project

On two occasions, 1998 and 2018, this has provided free plants to help increase the number of Brimstone butterflies in Suffolk

Not currently available in 2019 but Common and Alder Buckthorn whips are quite inexpensive to buy from nurseries.

The objective of this project is to increase the number of Brimsone butterflies breeding in Suffolk, especially in the east of the county.




History 2018

Previously (see History below) over 4000 Common and Alder Buckthorn bushes, the foodplant of the caterpillars, were planted in Suffolk, mostly in gardens.

The Project is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.  The initiative is aimed at communities across Suffolk, getting them involved in the continued preservation of the Brimstone butterfly.  Once scarce in our county, the project has helped deliver thousands of Buckthorn bushes to key locations where this species is known to be recorded in much fewer numbers.  Female Brimstone butterflies are very good at finding the foodplant so there has been an increase in numbers.  The results have shown a significant increase in sightings and helped secure the Brimstone’s future in our area.  (See the 2015 distribution map here) 

But we need your help to further our efforts, particularly if you live in an area where there have been few sightings of Brimstones. 

For 2018 we have identified new areas that have not previously been incorporated into the Brimstones & Buckthorns Project.  If we can count on your support, the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation will provide you with FREE plants.  These will be bare rooted whips of both Common and Alder Buckthorn.  The Brimstone will lay their eggs on these, the plants providing the foodplant for the caterpillars.  Although it may take a couple of years for the bushes to establish and attract Brimstones, it will be worth the wait due to the Brimstone's legendary ability to find the bush from afar.  You will be making a valuable contribution to the preservation of this Butterfly, at a time when numbers of all species in the UK continue to fall.

We would love to work with you and here is how you can get involved.         
 - Identify a suitable site/sites where you can plant the Buckthorn         
 - Tell us how many plants you would like         
 - Encourage local people to report their Brimstone sightings.  

What will we do for you         
 - Provide you with Buckthorn plants free of charge         
 - Include a useful guide for planting and aftercare         
 - We can even arrange delivery for you         

The most valuable part of the project will be the ongoing recording of sightings in your area. This can be done by sending them to the e-mail contacts below.  

For more details and to get involved, please contact    “

The map below shows the main planting areas and will also be used to record sightings of the butterflies.  If you see Brimstones in the County of Suffolk, please contact  

View new Brimstones map in a larger map.  This will display in a new tab.  Scroll to the bottom of the left pane (the list of entries) and click on 3 to see a larger scale.

History 1998

In 1998 Julian Dowding spearheaded the Brimstones and Buckthorn project with Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation, Ipswich Organic Gardeners Group, Ipswich Wildlife Group and the Wildlife Rangers at Ipswich Borough Council.  The project was based upon the fact that female Brimstone butterflies are very good at finding their caterpillar food plant Buckthorn on which to lay eggs, from afar.  In just two years, over 2000 bushes of both Common Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica and Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus were planted in the target area, and female Brimstones soon homed in with the first one turning up during fine sunny weather at a home in Bildeston on May Day, 1999.  The initiative aimed at getting people involved in growing Buckthorn bushes to attract breeding Brimstone butterflies which were scarce in the East of the county of Suffolk and was a wildlife gardening exercise. Today the butterfly is much more common in parts of Suffolk, due to these efforts.

In 2011, Matt Berry and Julian Dowding along with Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation rolled out Brimstones and Buckthorn once again.  The aim to increase both the range and number of Brimstones seen in the parts of Suffolk, where the butterfly continues to be elusive, whilst at the same time getting more people involved in wildlife gardening and in caring for the wider environment.  Records of new sightings will be forwarded to the Suffolk Biological Records Office.
In April 2011, we launched the campaign at Jimmy Doherty's Farm along with Steve Backshall, from TV's 'Deadly 60', during the opening of Jimmy's butterfly house.  Jimmy, Steve and Rob Parker, then Suffolk County Recorder for butterflies, planted three buckthorns in Jimmy's wildlife garden.  It was great to have around 75 people and 3 schools sign up to Brimstones and Buckthorn, and moreover, to see literally hundreds of children and parents enthralled by both Jimmy and Steve captivating appeal to get involved with insects and wildlife.
In October 2011, we publicised the campaign in the local press to attract more participants, resulting in over 2000 bare-rooted whips being sent out to customers.  Bushes were free and recipients are asked to monitor growth and look out for Brimstones and egg laying activity over the following two years.  1,600 was received for the project which included 500 from Suffolk Naturalists Society and further help from HSBC

Although it may again take a couple of years for the bushes to attract Brimstones, we are sure that it will be worth the wait and have a certain expectation this time around, due to the Brimstone's proven ability to find the bush.

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