Home Environment and health How to take part in the Big Butterfly Count

How to take part in the Big Butterfly Count

Peacock butterfly on an Echinacea
Peacock butterfly on an Echinacea

Become a citizen scientist in the world’s biggest survey of butterflies, July 17-August 9

Butterflies are important indicators of biodiversity in our ecosystem and their numbers have been falling since the 1970s, so it’s vital we do our bit in The Big Butterfly Count.

This UK-wide survey, run by Butterfly Conservation, is aimed at helping to assess the health of the environment by counting the amount and type of butterflies (and some day-flying moths) we see.

It was launched in 2010 and has become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies, with more than 113,500 people taking part in 2019, submitting 116,009 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths.

Butterflies are important as pollinators and components of the food chain and declines are an early warning sign for other wildlife losses, as they react very quickly to changes in their environment.

Holly blue butterfly on newly painted black garden wall
Holly blue butterfly on newly painted black garden wall

How to take part

Download the butterfly ID chart or count on the move with the free app for iOS and Android to identify and record the butterflies you spot.

Between Friday, July 17 and Sunday, August 9, choose a place to spot butterflies and moths. Watch for 15 minutes during bright, preferably sunny weather.

Record which species you see on the website or via the app and look at the interactive map to see how your data is contributing to conservation science and research.

Records are welcome from anywhere – parks, school grounds, gardens, fields and forests.

Sir David Attenborough and the Big Butterfly Count 2017
Sir David Attenborough. Picture; Butterfly Conservation

How to record your results

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 buddleja, record it as three, 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 total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

If you don’t see any butterflies then register that too, as it may indicate a wider problem.

The Big Butterfly Count is backed by Sir David Attenborough, president of Butterfly Conservation, Alan Titchmarsh, Chris Packham and Nick Baker, vice-presidents of Butterfly Conservation and Joanna Lumley.

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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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