Butterfly numbers at historic low


UK butterfly numbers are at a “historic low”, according to conservationists.

The charity Butterfly Conservation issued the warning ahead of its annual survey, the Big Butterfly Count. Difficult weather conditions, including last year’s wet summer and the recent cold spring, have exacerbated population declines.

But it is hoped that the hot start to July could help the insects to bounce back.    “The washout weather of 2012 proved a disaster for our butterflies; these conditions, coupled with long-term declines, means there are probably fewer butterflies in the UK than at any point during my lifetime,” said Sir David Attenborough, the charity’s president.

“Butterflies are vitally important. Their presence acts as a barometer of the health of our environment. Their ongoing decline tells us that all is not well in the British countryside.”

The Big Butterfly Count is a survey where the public are invited to record the insects flying in their local green space. They are provided with a chart of 19 common garden butterflies and 2 day-flying moths and asked how many of each can be spotted in 15 minutes.

Last year more than 220,000 butterflies were counted with 15 of the 21 species declining compared with the previous year’s survey. This year’s cold spring led to butterflies emerging three weeks late but the recent heatwave could boost numbers.

“This summer heatwave is the perfect tonic for Britain’s beleaguered butterflies,” said Butterfly Conservation’s survey manager Richard Fox. “The hot, calm conditions of recent weeks are ideal for butterflies to emerge, mate and lay eggs so we hope that their populations will start to recover and people can once more enjoy a profusion of butterflies in their gardens and the countryside.

“Spending just 15 minutes to take part in Big Butterfly Count over the coming weeks will enable us to see if butterflies have bounced back.”

The Big Butterfly Count takes place from the 20 July to 11 August.

7 responses to “Butterfly numbers at historic low

  1. I did the Big Butterfly Count in 2010 and recorded really good numbers, 11 species in the 15 minute slot and 4 more on the same walk. Since then disastrous summer weather has badly affected the butterflies and this year looked to be shaping up the same way until the sun came out in June.

    Last weekend I went to Brampton Wood in Cambridgeshire to look for hairstreaks. I didn’t see any but I got chatting to the warden who said that summer butterflies such as white admiral and purple emperor were present at Fermyn Wood in Northamptonshire in really good numbers!

    So hopefully all the Lepidopterans will get a chance to recover.

  2. I heard the Brits voted against the EU ban of neonics earlier this year. I imagine the continued use of those represents a great part of the reason for the decline. Glad the weather is better this year to help in the re-bound!

  3. I’m sorry to hear this because I’ve seen so many more butterflies this year than in past years, both where we walk and in the garden. I was hoping that they’d bounced back a bit with the good weather.

  4. First the bats, then the bees, now the butterflies– hard not to see disasters all around!! Thanks for posting.

  5. Copied below are the comments I left on Jenny Steel’s blog, concerning the rather ironic abundance of winged insects this Summer.

    What a fantastic Summer it has been for a whole range of winged insects. All one can hope is that, the forthcoming winter’s weather is kind (not that we can change it) and that, disturbance is kept to a minimum. Then, and only then, can we hope to see another resurgence next Spring and Summer. It truly has been a stunning year for them, first decent one for many a year, surely.

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