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Be part of the Big Butterfly Count

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Staff writer |
Big Butterfly Count
Nature   UK nationwide survey

Sir David Attenborough, who is Butterfly Conservation president, is launching this year’s Big Butterfly Count.


Big Butterfly Count was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world's biggest survey of butterflies. Over 44,000 people took part in 2014, counting almost 560,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.

After the excellent results in 2013, big butterfly count 2014 saw many species drop back, although a few did really well. Over 44,000 people took part, undertaking more than 43,500 counts of butterflies and moths right across the UK, and cementing the project's status as the biggest survey of butterflies in the world.

Almost three quarters of species (15 of the 21 target species) showed year on year decreases and the average number of individual butterflies seen per count fell considerably, from 23 in 2013 to 15 this year.

These declines came in spite of months of above average temperatures and a lovely sunny July for much of the UK; conditions which should generally favour butterflies. However, the weather took a turn for the worse in August, curtailing the flight periods of many common butterflies and hastening others into hibernation. It was the coldest August since 1993 in the UK.

The common white butterflies all recorded a disappointing summer after bumper numbers last year. The Large White was down by 65%, Small White by 60% and Green-veined White by 47%. The Count’s two migrant species – the Painted Lady and Silver Y moth also had a lacklustre year.

The single-brooded species associated with summer meadows also declined dramatically in abundance, for the second big butterfly count in a row. The Meadow Brown (38% down on 2013), Ringlet (58% down), Marbled White (48% down) and Six-spot Burnet moth (59% down) all did badly. However, this may not be as worrying as it first seems as these species may have already bred successfully in July before many counts were undertaken.

This year count runs from July 17 to August 9. Be part of this year Big Butterfly Count and simply count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather during the big butterfly count.

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.


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