The butterfly is mainly to be found in Central and Southern England with isolated colonies in Southern Lake district and The North York Moors.
Unlike warmth loving butterflies, the Duke is intolerant of open downs and will not prosper in dark, dense woodlands. It is extremely picky about its habitat!
However, it does thrive, albeit in low numbers, on extensive or lightly grazed grassland and scrub (see above image), or open or coppiced woodlands...
...just as long as there are sufficient numbers of primroses, (see image) or cowslips. These plant species are the only food-plants for the Duke of Burgundy's caterpillars.
Taking a break from the National Trust's farm at High Lickbarrow, a small herd of the rare Albion cattle, up to the age of eighteen months, have Moor How as their grazing allotment from May to October each year.
They have been called conservation grazers as they help to establish the right conditions for the Duke of Burgundy. Cattle do not graze as close down to the ground as sheep. Unlike sheep, cattle use their tongues to pull tufts of vegetation into their mouths. As they graze, tussocks of grass are formed in which the caterpillars can pupate successfully.
As cattle have such wide mouths they do not overgraze or target certain species of plants...this results in a highly diverse habitat benefiting both insects and small mammals.
|A "first heifer" at Moor How.|
The light grazing regime, coupled with the increasing numbers of primroses planted, should ultimately make Moor How a highly suitable site for the Duke of Burgundy.
Hopefully there will soon be news that the first Duke of Burgundy butterfly has be seen at Moor How!