Nature Today | Root pigs for butterflies

It sounds like a fairy tale title and an unexpected combination. The large wild boar that helps weak butterfly species. the Rooting zones form a micro-habitat For different types of pioneer plants. You can think of sheep’s sorrel, violets, downy stork’s beak and heron’s beak. These species are important host plants for the blue-brown butterfly, the little fritillary butterfly, and the little and brown fire butterfly. Without these plants they have less chance of reproducing. Open plants are also suitable for moths which are found here in clumps of sheep’s grass or grass in a warm microclimate. So it seems that there is indeed a relationship between pigs and butterflies. To better understand this relationship, the Wild van Vlinders project has been initiated, and final research will be conducted this year.


The campsite is reserved, and its camping equipment is ready. Mathias Bowens is looking forward to getting started Research training. “I’m particularly interested in the final results and the final image,” he says beforehand. “I hope I can also contribute to the natural recovery of the landscape and the acceptance of species such as wild boar.” To collect more data on the key role of wild boars, Matthias will carry out field work in the De Plateau and De Valkenhorst nature reserves. This training is the final part of a three-year study on the relationship between pigs and butterflies. He visited the pre-marked plots several times with and without root markers. Here he takes stock of the types of plants and butterflies found there. It is not only about the appearance of species, but also about life stages. Are these small plants or are they larger and already thriving? Is it the eggs, the caterpillars, or are there actually butterflies flying? Are there any differences compared to last year?

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The little butterfly lives in open pioneer plants and in poor, dry, warm grasslands with bare soil

More plants and butterflies

You may have encountered this too. While hiking in nature, butterflies always land on the sandy path you are walking on. Many butterfly species love warm soil. There they search for pioneer plants to lay their eggs on and the larvae eat young greenery. The larvae often pupate in nearby bushes. Pioneer plants rely on open spaces where they do not overgrow immediately. The wild boar ensures that there is always a new supply from these growing places. By rooting they provide more diversity in the landscape. This creates a landscape where there is more room for natural processes. Large and small grazing animals and wild boars control these processes and make the area very diverse. Without them, landscapes will continue to develop with closed grass mats or even become forests. Due to the presence of wild boar, we hope to find more butterfly species in the long term. Wild boar can therefore play a major role in this Butterfly species recoveryRare or not.

Heather butterflies in Brabant benefit from rooting pigs

Wild boars in Brabant

Wild boars traditionally belong to the Netherlands. Now they live mainly in Veluwe and in Meinweg. Outside these areas, an official zero level policy applies, so pigs are not allowed there. This is to prevent damage to crops and gardens and reduce collisions. At the same time, it is a great experience for people to see wild boars in nature. Their powerful snout that works like a hoe, their large ears and the striped “pajamas” of pigs cause much admiration. Pigs have many beneficial effects on nature. In the winter, they ensure that the birds are able to forage for food in the disturbed ground. The pigs come across the border from Belgium and Germany. Pigs, tracks and rooting areas are now regularly seen in South Brabant. These vast areas, with lots of variety and food, are very popular with wild boar. Therefore, it is almost impossible to keep them away from these areas and hence their role in the system. Nature cannot be limited.

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The end of the wild boar's nose contains a cartilaginous plate: the rooting disc

Environment and stakeholders

The presence of wild boars in these areas also raises controversy. An important goal of Mathias’s training is to better engage the environment in nature and bring the parties closer together. Trips are organized and surveys are conducted to inform people and bring them together.

more information

text: ARK Rewilding Netherlands
Photos: Jeroen Helmer; Michelle Wallis de Vries; Carsten Rainier

Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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