Rare Queen of Spain fritillary spotted in the Sallandse Heuvelrug

A unique event has occurred in the Sallandse Heuvelrug. The very rare Queen of Spain fritillary was spotted in this nature reserve and seems to be making its home there, in part thanks to the artificial crop fields created by Natuurmonumenten. The butterfly is so rare that it is on the red list of endangered plant and animal species, so this definitely calls for a big ‘hurrah’!

Kleine parelmoervlinder
Photo: Twan Teunissen

 

Climate change
The Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria lathonia) is not a recent resident of the Netherlands because the vulnerable species has been breeding in the coastal region for decades. However, it can only reproduce by laying eggs on wild pansies, called duinviooltje or ‘violet of the dunes’ in Dutch. As the name suggests, this little plant only grows in the dunes, so the butterfly’s spread to other regions in the Netherlands is an extraordinary occurrence. Climate change is providing the butterfly with increasing opportunities to expand its habitat. A hot and dry climate creates the perfect conditions for the Queen of Spain fritillary and the last two years’ hot summers have allowed the butterfly to move over great distances. As a result, it is now breeding in the Sallandse heath fields. 

The rare butterfly has not only established itself here due to climate change, as there is a clear link to a project initiated by Natuurmonumenten. The Dutch nature conservancy organization has created artificial crop fields in the Sallandse Heuvelrug, giving the European field pansy room to flourish. In addition to wild pansies, the Queen of Spain fritillary also lays its eggs on European field pansies. 

 

Completely excited
Jos Schouten, one of Natuurmonumenten’s forest rangers, was completely excited when he first spotted a Queen of Spain fritillary. In 2019, Natuurmonumenten started a pilot sparing both European field and wild pansies instead of plowing the fields as had been done before, allowing the butterfly species to lay eggs here. It was hoped that this would enable the butterfly population to spread throughout the region. 

A new species. Wow. When I was just out for a walk, I noticed it flying around. It is truly amazing that we are seeing the Queen of Spain fritillary here in the heath fields for the very first time!

Jos Schouten Forest ranger

Looking at the future

According to the national Butterfly Foundation, there is a clear trend in butterfly populations resulting from climate change. Some species do extremely well but unfortunately others have definitely lost ground. The Queen of Spain fritillary has definitely benefited from the hot, dry weather in recent years and can now be found in the Veluwe, Achterhoek and southern Netherlands in addition to the Dutch dune regions and Sallandse Heuvelrug. It is expected that we will be able to enjoy this beautiful butterfly throughout the Netherlands in a few years.

For more information, please visit: http://nm.nl/de-Sprengenberg