More bad news for gar­den wildlife: 2016 was worse than the worst year on record for but­ter­flies

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Notebook -

Re­sults from this year’s Big But­ter­fly Count re­veal that pop­u­la­tions of com­mon gar­den but­ter­flies col­lapsed, de­spite the warmer-thanaver­age sum­mer tem­per­a­tures – con­di­tions but­ter­flies typ­i­cally need to breed and feed suc­cess­fully.

Num­bers of but­ter­flies spot­ted were lower than those recorded in 2012 – the of­fi­cial worst year on record for but­ter­flies.

Wide­spread species such as the gate­keeper, comma and small cop­per ex­pe­ri­enced their worst sum­mers since the launch of the Big But­ter­fly Count in 2011, with num­bers down 40 per cent, 46 per cent and 30 per cent re­spec­tively com­pared with 2015. The small tor­toise­shell saw a 47 per cent drop in num­bers and the pea­cock slumped by 42 per cent since 2015. As yet it’s un­clear why num­bers fell so dra­mat­i­cally. But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion’s head of record­ing, Richard Fox, de­scribed it as a mys­tery.

“When we have cold, wet sum­mers we ex­pect but­ter­fly pop­u­la­tions to plum­met, but that wasn’t the case this year. Per­haps the very mild win­ter had a neg­a­tive ef­fect, or the cold spring, or per­haps the im­pacts of in­ten­sive farm­ing and pes­ti­cides are re­ally hit­ting these com­mon species now.”

Buck­ing the trend, num­bers of the red ad­mi­ral were up 70 per cent com­pared with 2015. The green-veined white also had a good year, and was seen 58 per cent more than last year. The large white topped the count for the first time, but only be­cause other species fared so badly.

More than 36,000 peo­ple took part in this year’s count, spot­ting around 390,000 but­ter­flies dur­ing the three-week record­ing pe­riod in mid­sum­mer. For the full re­sults and to par­tic­i­pate in the next count, visit big­but­ter­fly count.org.

Pea­cock: slumped by 42 per cent

Small tor­toise­shell: a 47 per cent drop

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