A piece of good news for the environment: the black-veined white butterfly, a species officially declared extinct in Great Britain almost a century ago, has been sighted once again. Reporting on the event described as mysterious and exciting is the BBC, specifying that a small number of white butterflies with black veins have been spotted flying in fields and hedges in Southeast London. The enthusiast naturalist Frank Gardner was the one to pick up on their trail. For non-experts, they could easily be mistaken for the common white cabbage butterflies seen in Britain every summer, while these are more unique than rare. Initially listed as a British species during the reign of King Charles II, they were officially declared extinct in Great Britain in 1925. Now, between May and June, they have mysteriously reappeared in their preferred habitat: hawthorn and blackthorn trees at the outskirts of London, where the BBC correspondent and other naturalists have observed them fluttering among the hedges.
As the name suggests – ‘black-veined white butterfly’ – it is a medium-sized white butterfly with distinctive black veins on its wings. The Butterfly Conservation charity, which monitors the number of butterflies in Britain, told the BBC that they were likely released, but they don’t know by whom or why. While the sight may have been unusual for those who managed to see them, their presence at the moment does not indicate a spontaneous recovery of an extinct species. In August 2022, a similar occurrence took place with the large blue butterfly, previously extinct, which, according to experts, had its best summer in 150 years. The large blue butterfly is one of the most threatened insects in Europe, but thousands were spotted in Southwest England last summer. In that case, however, it was the success of a long-term conservation project led by the Royal Entomological Society. A story that highlighted how endangered species can be saved.