Biggest Butterfly Count

Attenborough counting butterflies

The Big Butterfly Count run annually in the UK by Butterfly Conservation and Marks and Spencer is the biggest count of butterflies anywhere in the world. Last year, over 45,000 people took part, counting over 800,000 individual butterflies of the 21 target species, and helping to assess the changing fortunes of Britain’s beleaguered butterflies.

The overall findings showed that many butterflies had bounced back after the horrible, wet summer of 2012, but that numbers remained well below some of the high population levels seen back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Will butterflies lapse back into decline this summer or push on to even greater numbers?

The signs are good; the weather has been kind and butterflies seem to be emerging in numbers. But we need your help to answer this question, by spending just 15 minutes in the sunshine, enjoying butterflies and taking part in Big Butterfly Count.

Big Butterfly Count 2014 was launched two weeks ago by Sir David Attenborough and continues until Sunday 10th August (although you have until the end of the month to submit your sightings). What is the picture so far?

PeacockThere has been a fantastic response to Sir David’s appeal for everyone to do something positive for butterflies by taking part in Big Butterfly Count. Over 22,000 Counts have already been submitted via the Big Butterfly Count website and free smartphone app.

Amazingly, the Peacock has taken a commanding lead in the Counts submitted so far. This stunning species had a good year in 2013 and was the third most abundant butterfly recorded in last year’s Count – its highest position to date. Can it go one step further and take top spot this year?

The main challenges come from the brown butterflies, particularly the Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown, and the ‘cabbage’ whites. Currently, Gatekeeper and Small White seem to be faring particularly well, with Meadow Brown also in good numbers. The Peacock’s close relative the Small Tortoiseshell also appears to be thriving in the warm, sunny weather, and is currently doing better than it did last year.

Some butterfly enthusiasts were still reporting large numbers of Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars in their area as this year’s Count got underway and these will be completing their development and emerging as fresh adult butterflies in the coming days. Will a late surge of Small Tortoiseshells see it climbing even higher up the results table or even challenging for the lead?

Please help! Join Sir David Attenborough and the thousands of other people taking part in Big Butterfly Count 2014.

Richard Fox
Surveys Manager
Follow me on Twitter: @RichardFoxBC