Continuing trend sees the decline in butterfly numbers
The Big Butterfly Count ends tomorrow), so you just have time to take part – you have until the end of the month to submit your figures. It’s vital that we keep account of butterfly numbers every year, especially during these times of extreme weather.
It will only take 15 minutes and will help Butterfly Conservation to assess the health of the environment. Since its launch in 2010, it has become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies.
In 2017, 62,547 counts were submitted by more than 60,400 participants, a 64 per cent increase in the number of counts and a 66 per cent increase in the number of people taking part compared with 2016.
That was the good news – now the bad. July and August 2017 were dominated by unsettled weather and above average rainfall, after six months (January-June) of above average temperatures, which encouraged butterflies to emerge early.
Despite 550,000 individual insects of the 20 target species being spotted, the average number of individuals seen per 15-minute count was the lowest recorded since the project began.
The average number of individual butterflies per count has decreased each year since 2013 when more than twice as many butterflies were seen per count compared with 2017.
Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators.
Your count can be done anywhere: from parks and gardens to fields and forests.
If you are counting from a fixed position, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time.
For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a bush then record it as three, but if you only see one at a time then record it as one (even if you saw one on several occasions).
If you are doing your count on a walk, simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes. You can download an identification chart to help you.
Even if you don’t see any butterflies or moths, your account is still vital.
Send in your sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or by using the free Big Butterfly Count smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.
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A Peacock butterfy on buddleja.
A Cabbage White autterfly on buddleja. Picture by RHS
A Tortoiseshell butterfly on buddleja.