There’s four days left of the Big Butterfly Count 2014.
The charity Butterfly Conservation hopes that thousands of participants will spend 15 minutes to log 1m butterfly sightings – beating last year’s record of 800,000.
Nature lovers are being asked to count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather. Records are welcome from anywhere, including parks, school grounds, gardens, fields and forests.
If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, 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 buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once.
If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.
The charity said: “Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses.
“The count will also assist us in identifying trends in species that will help us plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.”
You can download a handy identification chart to help you work out which butterflies you have seen and submit separate records for different dates, and for different places that you visit.
You can send in your sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or by using a free smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.
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.
Watching butterflies flutter around our flowerbeds is one of the quintessential sights of summer, but there is new evidence that many of our garden favourites, including the Red Admiral and Holly Blue, are in sharp decline.
The Big Butterfly Count 2012 has revealed that 11 common types have decreased by more than a third compared with last year, as a result of the wettest summer in 100 years. Heavy rain, strong winds and low temperatures have sadly taken their toll, putting many already threatened species at risk.
Speckled Wood dropped substantially by 65%, Brimstone by 53% and Common Blues by 50%. The Red Admiral, which was abundant last summer, fell sharply, with numbers down by 72%. The Holly Blue (42% down) and common whites (each down by at least 33%) have also suffered.
Some butterfly species have increased, with Meadow Brown counts up by 186% to become Britain’s most abundant species. The study, run annually by Butterfly Conservation, is the biggest of its kind in the world.