Home Environment and health Big Butterfly Count 2018

Big Butterfly Count 2018

Large white butterfly
Large white (cabbage white) on Buddleja. Picture; RHS

The count is on now – finishes August 12

It’s vital that we keep account of butterfly numbers every year, especially during these times of extreme weather – that’s why taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is so important.

A nationwide survey which ends on Tuesday, August 12, you have until the end of the month to submit your figures.

It will only take 15 minutes and will help Butterfly Conservation to assess the health of the environment. Since its launch in 2010, it has become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies.

Altogether in 2017, 62,547 counts were submitted by more than 60,400 participants, a 64 per cent increase in the number of counts and a 66 per cent increase in the number of people taking part compared with 2016.

Worst butterfly figures since count began

That was the good news – now the bad. July and August 2017 were dominated by unsettled weather and above average rainfall, making it overall one of the wettest UK summers for 100 years.

This after six months (January-June) of above average temperatures, which encouraged butterflies to emerge early.

Despite 550,000 individual insects of the 20 target species being spotted, the average number of individuals seen per 15-minute count was the lowest recorded since the project began in 2010.

Just 10.9 individuals per count were recorded, down from 12.2 in 2016. The average number of individual butterflies per count has decreased each year since 2013 when more than twice as many butterflies were seen per count compared with 2017.

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.

You can do your count anywhere

Your count can be done anywhere: from parks and gardens to fields and forests.

If you are counting from a fixed position, 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 bush then record it as three, but if you only see one at a time then record it as one (even if you saw one on several occasions).

If you are doing your count on a walk, simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes. You can download an identification chart to help you.

Even if you don’t see any butterflies or moths, your account is still vital.

Send in your sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or by using the free Big Butterfly Count smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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