Some kind of miracle

American Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (1). Image courtesy of

Many of those who visited either of the presentations displaying the proposed new development on land at Highland Court Farm in Bekesbourne last week expressed suspicion at some of the claims made on the presentation boards. Not least of these is the notion, put forward by the developers, that their development will enhance biodiversity on the land. By this they mean: more individual species of flora and fauna would be present on the site in the years after the development.

There is a confused but partially valid argument here. While much of the land would of course be built over in the scheme, thereby destroying farmland and wildlife habitat, some of the proposed measures, like ponds, wild flower meadows and copses of trees, would undoubtedly attract a greater variety of species to those areas where they are located: but this should not be used to suggest that the proposed scheme is of benefit to wildlife overall.

However, to illustrate their point, the developers presented a board including what we might presume to be some of the wildlife we would hope to see in the revitalised areas of the farm. Among them were such valued native species as a reed bunting, a wild bee, a grass snake: all of which have been recorded in this area by in recent years. Yet remarkably, also included in the display, was what appeared to be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly!

This is either an unfortunate error, or the developers are proposing some kind of ecological miracle, because the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly resides only in the Americas (2). Our own native species of Swallowtail, Papillon machaon britannicus, which looks rather different, lives only on the Norfolk Broads, primarily because its sole larval food plant, Milk-parsley, grows there. Occasionally, Britain is also visited by the Continental Swallowtail Papillon machaon gorganus which closely resembles its British cousin, not the American relative.

The proposal for development at Highland Court Farm may attract support or criticism, but we suspect there is very little chance that it will attract any Swallowtail butterflies on a permanent basis.

(1) The picture presented above is not the same photograph that was displayed in the presentation.
(2) In 1932, a single Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly was discovered and captured in County Wicklow, Ireland, having been accidentally imported from America.

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