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 36,000 people took part in 2015, counting over 460,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK (see the 2016 results). This year’s Big Butterfly Count is taking place from Friday 14 July to Sunday 6 August 2017.
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 6 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.
Despite seemingly good weather, last year’s results showed lower overall numbers of butterflies than previous years, with over half of the species decreasing compare with 2015. Common and Holly Blues both halved in numbers from 2015, while the Peacock suffered its third successive year of decline, with a sixfold decrease in three years. A few species fared better than in 2015, with the Red Admiral and Green-veined White doing particularly well, with increases of 70% and 58% respectively. The Large White was the commonest butterfly, followed by Small White and Meadow Brown.
For more information on how to take part, see the Big Butterfly Count website.
Header photo: Comma (John Archer)