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