Student Placement Blog: Katie Ritchie

Hello everyone, I’m Katie, and I’m helping to look after the marsh fritillaries as part of my university placement year at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. I’m passionate about pollinators and their conservation, so being involved in this project has been a huge privilege and an invaluable opportunity for me to learn more about butterfly conservation.

Katie helping to build one of the new marsh fritillary rearing pens


When the marsh fritillaries first arrived at the Garden (which is one of the rearing sites) in March, my job was to keep an eye on the caterpillars to make sure that they all looked healthy and to check for parasitic wasp cocoons so that they could be isolated as soon as possible. I also tracked their movement around the rearing pen to see how much they spread out from the clusters they were originally in and to make sure that they could get to the devil’s bit scabious to eat.


From mid-April, things started to get a bit busier in terms of my involvement with the marsh fritillaries. Wasp cocoons started emerging from some of the caterpillars, which meant having to isolate parasitized caterpillars from the healthy ones as soon as possible. This also meant checking them more frequently and thoroughly. Also, the caterpillars have started pupating, so I’ve been counting how many pupae we have and looking out for signs that emergence of butterflies is imminent. The pupae are extremely beautiful, and I’ve loved having the opportunity to get up close to them and photograph them.


From my involvement in the project, I have learned how to rear butterflies from caterpillars (which is something I had never done before). I have also learnt more about the marsh fritillary’s life cycle, which is something I’d not really known about in detail before looking after them. In addition, the project has given me the opportunity to actually see a marsh fritillary at different life stages, as I had never seen any of the life stages up until recently. This has been particularly exciting for me.

Marsh fritillary caterpillars being moved to their rearing pen


It’s been so interesting to watch their life cycle so far, and I can’t wait for the butterflies to start emerging from the pupae.

One thought on “Student Placement Blog: Katie Ritchie

  1. Dear Katie, Rob,

    I read Katie Ritchie’s article on the botanic gardens website about ivy mining bee https://botanicgarden.wales/2020/10/the-importance-of-flowering-ivy-hedera-helix/

    I wonder if I could pick your collective brains concerning the management of ivy for wildlife. I am a gardener and have holly blues, bees, blackcaps and thrushes all benefiting from the cover/berries/flowers.

    I’m interested in figuring out how to balance tidiness (which means regular short back and sides) with not wanting to decapitate flowers and potential berries. I fear my tidiness regime has reduced holly blue numbers in one of my gardens. It would be interesting to have as chat with some entomologists (?) like your selves about invertebrates and ivy.

    Or perhaps you could point me tin the direction of other people with an interest in folowerinng ivy , bees and Holly blues

    -Bernard. Ryan

    (Environmental Management Bsc)

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