‘Extinct’ butterfly species reemerges in the UK

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The black-veined white butterfly was declared extinct in the United Kingdom about a century ago. Image source: FRANK GARDNER

A rare species that was thought to have vanished from British landscapes for nearly a century has reemerged on the outskirts of London, sending shockwaves through the scientific community.

One blink and they vanish—elusive and captivating, the sightings of an exceptionally scarce butterfly have ignited excitement among enthusiasts.

A handful of black-veined whites have been seen beautifully flying between fields and hedgerows in the picturesque countryside of south-east London.

To the uneducated eye, they could be mistaken for the common cabbage white butterflies that adorn British summers. The black-veined white on this side of the English Channel, on the other hand, is anything from average.

Originally acknowledged as a native British species during King Charles II’s reign, they were formally declared extinct in 1925, leaving only a historical trace in British natural history.

During this month, much to our amazement, these enigmatic creatures have made a mysterious reappearance within their favored habitat: the enchanting hawthorn and blackthorn trees bordering the outskirts of London.

As a fervent naturalist, I have joyfully witnessed their delicate flight between hedgerows, joined by fellow enthusiasts.

True to their name, these butterflies are of medium size, showcasing ethereal white wings adorned with distinct black veins, an unmistakable feature that sets them apart.

According to the conservation organization Butterfly Conservation, responsible for monitoring butterfly populations in Britain, the prevailing belief is that these insects have been intentionally released, yet the identity of the releaser and the motive behind such an act remain elusive.

While it is a delightful experience for individuals to have the opportunity to observe them, the experts assert that this occurrence does not indicate a spontaneous revival of an extinct species.

The intrigue deepens as we contemplate the origins and purpose behind the reappearance of these rare butterflies, leaving us with a sense of wonder and curiosity about the intricate workings of the natural world.


The black-veined white butterfly. Image source: FRANK GARDNER

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