Con­tin­u­ing trend sees the de­cline in butterfly num­bers

Sunderland Echo - - In The Garden -

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.

For more in­for­ma­tion, plus cook what you grow, recipes, en­vi­ron­men­tal news and more, log on to the web­site at www.mandy­canudigit. com – which is also now smart­phone friendly.

You can also fol­low Mandy on Twit­ter @Mandy­CanUDigIt or you can like me on my Face­book page at Mandy­canudigit

A Pea­cock but­terfy on bud­dleja.

A Cab­bage White aut­ter­fly on bud­dleja. Pic­ture by RHS

A Tor­toise­shell butterfly on bud­dleja.

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