I’m Katie, and I’ve been helping out with the marsh fritillary project as part of my undergraduate placement year at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. My role has involved checking that the caterpillars had enough healthy devil’s bit scabious to feed on, looking out for the parasitic wasp emerging from any caterpillars in the first few months of the project and isolating any affected, carrying out head-counts of caterpillars, pupae and butterflies to keep track of any changes and/or losses, keeping an eye out for butterflies mating and laying eggs, and then in recent weeks, helping to count egg batches and monitoring their hatching.
My placement year is now coming to an end, which means that I will be saying goodbye to the marsh fritillaries and going back home to Yorkshire. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the project, and I’ve learnt so much whilst I’ve been part of it, such as how to rear butterflies from caterpillars. I’ve learnt lots about the marsh fritillary lifecycle, like how the eggs change colour as they age (from yellow to brown to violet, and then finally to grey just before the caterpillars emerge). Having the opportunity to see each life-stage of the species up close has been really special. It’s also been really interesting to find out more about their habitat in the wild and how crucial the correct management is in helping marsh fritillary populations survive.
In addition, being involved in the project has not only provided me with the opportunity to see my first ever marsh fritillaries (in captivity), but also to see my first ever wild ones (and lots of them) at one of the donor sites, which was amazing and was one of my favourite parts of the project. Another one of my favourite parts of the project was seeing the caterpillars pupate – it was so interesting to watch them hang upside down in a ‘C’ shape and see the pupal case gradually form.
Being involved in this project to help conserve the Upper Ely population of the marsh fritillary has been an incredible opportunity and I feel extremely lucky to have been a part of it. I’m really going to miss working on the project, and I can’t wait to see it progress further.