The Big Butterfly Count is a nationwide survey aimed at helping assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and an impressive 10,000 people took part, counting 210,000 butterflies and day-flying moths across the nation. Over 52,000 people took part in 2015, counting over 580,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK (see the 2015 results). This year’s Big Butterfly Count is taking place from Friday 15 July to Sunday 7 August 2016.
The survey is run by the charity Butterfly Conservation. To take part, simply count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather between now and 7 August. This is the time of year that most butterflies are at the adult stage of their lifecycle, so more likely to be seen. Records are welcome from anywhere: from parks, school grounds and gardens, to fields and forests. Then submit your records online at the Big Butterfly Count website. There’s even a free smartphone app for iOS or Android to make it easier to submit your sightings.
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. That’s why counting butterflies can be described as taking the pulse of nature. The count will also assist in identifying trends in species that will help to plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.
Last year’s results showed lower overall numbers of butterflies than previous years, presumably because of the poor weather. However, several species showed encouraging increases, particularly the Holly Blue, which increased by 151% over 2014, following three poor years. Also on the increase were Gatekeeper, Comma, Painted Lady and Large White. Green-veined White, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood all declined from 2014.
For more information on how to take part, see the Big Butterfly Count website.
Header photo: Painted Lady (David Darrell-Lambert/BirdBrainUK)