Peacock - Mark Searle

One of Scotland’s most striking butterflies, the Peacock, has experienced a record summer as it thrived in heatwave conditions, results from the Big Butterfly Count revealed.

After several lean years, the butterfly was the second most abundant species seen in Scotland during the three-week Count with almost 10,000 recorded, the highest number in the history of the project.

It is thought the butterfly which continues to expand its range across Scotland benefitted from the warm dry conditions which helped it successfully breed in the late spring and early summer, giving rise to a bumper summer generation during the Count.

The common white species dominated this year’s Big Butterfly Count, claiming the top four spots alongside the Peacock.

The Small White was the most abundant species of Big Butterfly Count 2018 in Scotland with numbers up 152% compared to the same period last year. The Large White took third spot up 242% and the Green-veined took fourth place up 34% on 2017.

The majority of Count species enjoyed a good summer with the Red Admiral, migrant Silver Y moth and Small Copper all being recorded in good numbers.

But grass-feeding species such as the Meadow Brown and Ringlet saw their numbers tumble 50% and 77% respectively, possibly because they emerged early during the heatwave and populations peaked before the Count began.

Overall, members of the public taking part in the citizen science project spotted more of the 17 target species than in recent years. On average, 10 individual butterflies and moths were seen per 15-minute Count this summer, compared to just 6 in 2017, 8 in 2016 and 7 in 2015.

A record 100,000 participants took part in the Count, the world’s largest butterfly survey, spotting almost one million butterflies in the UK during the three-week, high-summer recording period. Over 5,400 Counts were completed in Scotland, more than double the number last summer.

Across the rest of the UK the Small Tortoiseshell saw its ongoing slump continue with the butterfly recording its worst Count year on record.

Small Tortoiseshell - Iain Leach
Small Tortoiseshell - Iain Leach

The butterfly fared better in Scotland and actually experienced a rise of 21% compared to the same period last year.

Butterfly Conservation’s Associate Director of Recording and Research, Richard Fox said: “The bumper numbers of stunning Peacock butterflies and widespread whites have been a joy to behold this summer both on wildflowers in the countryside and in gardens across Scotland.

“This year’s Count has been a phenomenal success with more than 100,000 people enjoying beautiful butterflies, contributing towards conservation and reaping the mental and physical benefits of being outdoors in nature.

“Participants’ records are really important as they help us find out how the UK’s common species are faring and how to best protect them in the future.”

Results from the Big Butterfly Count help Butterfly Conservation to find out how the UK’s common species are faring and how to best protect them in the future.

More than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years with some common species, such as the Small Tortoiseshell, suffering significant slumps.

The Big Butterfly Count is sponsored by B&Q. Helena Feltham, People Director at B&Q, said: “The Big Butterfly Count is an essential annual event and vital to monitoring the health of our environment. The response to the Count has been fantastic, although it’s concerning to see the decline of some species.

“At B&Q our colleagues have loved being involved in the Count, we’re dedicated to encouraging our colleagues and customers to connect with nature and support wildlife in their outdoor spaces.  There’s so much we can do together to attract wildlife, whether you have a window box, a balcony, or a garden we can help you create a wildlife friendly environment, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of nature.”

Results can be found at www.bigbutterflycount.org

Big Butterfly Count 2018 – top 10 species ranking in Scotland

  1. Small White                       13,662 seen
  2. Peacock                            9,997
  3. Large White                      7,437
  4. Green-veined White          4,906
  5. Small Tortoiseshell           3,147
  6. Red Admiral                      2,903
  7. Silver Y                              1,228
  8. Meadow Brown                 1,179
  9. Painted Lady                     891
  10. Small Copper                    878