A MAN has appeared in court charged with capturing, killing and possessing specimens of the UK's rarest butterfly.
Phillip Cullen, 57, is accused of six offences relating to Large Blue (Maculinea arion) butterflies, which are endangered globally.
He is alleged to have captured and killed one Large Blue from Daneway Banks nature reserve near Cirencester, on June 18, 2015.
Cullen is also said to have captured and killed a second Large Blue from Collard Hill, near Street, Somerset, between June 17 and 20 that year.
Bristol Magistrates' Court heard the butterflies were found at Cullen's home in Cadbury Heath, Bristol, on February 13, 2016.
He denies six charges, relating to two Large Blue butterflies, and will stand trial at the court on March 16.
Prosecuting, Kevin Withey told the court: "The defendant faces charges in terms of capturing, killing and possession of a protected butterfly.
"The butterfly became extinct in this country in the late 1970s and was reintroduced and is a protected species in certain parts of the country.
"Significant care is given to its wellbeing and its hopeful future flourishing.
"People collect all kinds of things. People collect butterflies and there is a trade in mounted butterflies."
Mr Withey said the alleged offences came to light after a warrant was executed at Cullen's home address.
"The case revolves around a day or two in June 2015 when the Crown say that the defendant is witnessed at two local sites where the butterfly is found and where it is protected," he added.
"He is there capturing, killing and subsequently possessing and mounting these butterflies."
The court heard three witnesses - professionals, part-time enthusiasts and amateurs with an interest in the sites and Large Blue butterflies - will give evidence for the prosecution during the trial.
Cullen, who was released on unconditional bail, is also expected to give evidence, along with one witness for his defence.
The prosecution is believed to be the first involving offences relating to Large Blue butterflies in the UK.
If convicted, Cullen faces a prison sentence or an unlimited fine.
The Large Blue is the largest and rarest of blue butterflies and has a row of black spots on its upper forewing.
It spends most of the year within the nests of red ants, where the larvae feed on ant grubs.
The globally-endangered species has always been rare in Britain but became extinct in 1979.
In 2004, it occurred on nine sites in the country, following a major conservation programme.