THE HOME of an elusive butterfly which has settled in various Oxfordshire green spots is at risk of being destroyed by urban development.

The Black Hairstreak butterfly lives and breeds on one unique stretch of butterfly habitat between Oxford and Peterborough – an area earmarked for projects like the high-speed HS2 railway and proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

The Oxford and Ampthill Clays are the only place in the UK where all five of the hairstreak family of butterflies can be found, though individual species – including the declining Brown and White-letter Hairstreaks, the Purple Hairstreak, and the Green Hairstreak – have been spotted in numerous other areas in the county.

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Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is urging landowners and planners to think about the effects of development and is urging people to support the Five Hairstreak project.

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The charity hopes the project will help protect rare butterfly habitats and informs landowners on how to help and create new habitats for them.

Butterfly Conservation project officer Caroline Temple said: “Some habitat losses will be unavoidable, but by talking with landowners and planners now, we can find a way to manage existing sites to benefit the butterflies and create new habitat to compensate for any land that is lost.

“We won’t know the full impact of these developments until they are complete, but by working together we’re hoping to safeguard the future of these butterflies, especially the Black Hairstreak.”

In 2017, Highways England stumped up £75,000 to invest into protecting the future of the Hairstreak butterfly family which called a conservation area close to Wendlebury, near Bicester, home.

The money was used to create new fencing and protection for the area next to the M40.

More recently the rare butterfly was spotted in West Oxfordshire after returning a beauty spot following a 30-year absence.

The Black Hairstreak was spotted on North Leigh Common, near Witney, for the first time since 1988 by Stuart Hodges of Butterfly Conservation in August last year.

Hairstreak butterflies like to fly high among the canopy of trees and can be distinguished from other butterflies by a white streak on their underwings and a thin tail coming off their hindwings, although this is less pronounced on the Green Hairstreak – the UK’s only green butterfly.

Ms Temple added: “Over the last 10 years, the Brown Hairstreak has declined by 48 per cent across the UK and the White-letter Hairstreak has seen its numbers drop by 40 per cent, but while these two are struggling, it’s the Black Hairstreak we are really concerned about, because it doesn’t naturally occur anywhere else in the UK.

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“The butterfly actually had a great 2018 and BC even recorded a rise in its numbers, but none of that will matter if this key habitat is lost.”

Anyone interested in getting involved with the Five Hairstreaks project should email Ms Temple at