Long spells of warm sunny weather in July and August provided a much needed boost for our beleaguered butterflies with four times as many recorded during this year’s Big Butterfly Count than in 2012. A record-breaking 46,000 people took part, counting more than 830,000 butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.
Washout 2012 was the worst year on record for butterflies and had followed a series of poor summers which had compounded the long-term declines of many UK butterflies. But perfect conditions this summer saw butterflies boom with large numbers recorded across the UK’s gardens, parks, school playgrounds and countryside.
Butterfly spotters counted almost twice as many individuals (on average) compared with 2012. The whites did well, with both Large White and Small White numbers up by more than 300%. Small White topped the Big Butterfly Count 2013 chart with the Large White in second place and Peacock a surprise in third. Garden favourite the Small Tortoiseshell recorded its best Big Butterfly Count result yet, coming sixth.
Although the whites were very abundant it was the huge increase in Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock numbers that delighted the butterfly watching public. Both species have declined worryingly in recent years, but the Big Butterfly Count results are very promising, with Small Tortoiseshell numbers up by 388% compared to 2012 and Peacock numbers up by more than 3,500%.
In all, 15 of the 21 Big Butterfly Count species increased in 2013 compared with the previous year, and 12 of these were up by at least 50%. Several species that fared particularly well last year dropped back considerably. Ringlet and Marbled White numbers fell by over 50% and counts of Meadow Brown and Six-spot Burnet moth were also down on 2012.
Butterfly Conservation Surveys Manager Richard Fox said: “It has been a truly memorable summer for butterflies, a wonderful spectacle for the many thousands of people who’ve helped with the Big Butterfly Count and a lifeline to the UK’s hard pressed butterfly populations. It reminds us that butterflies are resilient and will thrive given good weather and suitable habitats. The problem facing UK butterflies is not the notoriously variable weather but the way that humans manage the landscape.
“The record-breaking support for this year’s Big Butterfly Count shows the public is concerned about wildlife and willing to do something to help stem their long-term declines.”
Big Butterfly Count 2013 – top 10 species ranking
1 Small White
2 Large White
4 Meadow Brown
5 Gatekeeper (see photo by John Archer above)
6 Small Tortoiseshell
7 Green-veined White
9 Six-spot Burnet