big butterfly count 2010 results: English regions

The Top 10 most abundant species for each English Government Region are given below:

South East




South West


East of England

1. Gatekeeper     1. Gatekeeper     1. Large White     1. Large White
2. Large White     2. Small White     2. Gatekeeper     2. Small White
3. Small White     3. Large White     3. Small White     3. Gatekeeper
4. Meadow Brown     4. Meadow Brown     4. Peacock     4. Meadow Brown
5. Common Blue     5. Common Blue     5. Meadow Brown     5. Six-spot Burnet
6. Peacock     6. Holly Blue     6. Common Blue     6. Common Blue
7. Red Admiral     7. Speckled Wood     7. Red Admiral     7. Silver Y
8. Comma     8. Peacock     8. Green-veined White     8. Red Admiral
9. Chalkhill Blue     9. Green-veined White     9. Small Tortoiseshell     9. Peacock
10. Ringlet     10. Comma     10. Speckled Wood     10. Comma


East Mids


West Mids




North East


North West

1. Large White   1. Small White   1. Small White   1. Small White   1. Gatekeeper  
2. Small White   2. Large White   2. Large White   2. Small Tortoiseshell   2. Small White  
3. Gatekeeper   3. Gatekeeper   3. Gatekeeper   3. Large White   3. Large White  
4. Peacock   4. Peacock   4. Peacock   4. Meadow Brown   4. Peacock  
5. Common Blue   5. Meadow Brown   5. Meadow Brown   5. Green-veined White   5. Meadow Brown  
6. Meadow Brown   6. Common Blue   6. Green-veined White   6. Ringlet   6. Green-veined White  
7. Green-veined White   7. Green-veined White   7. Small Tortoiseshell   7. Small Skipper   7. Small Tortoiseshell  
8. Small Tortoiseshell   8. Ringlet   8. Ringlet   8. Peacock   8. Speckled Wood  
9. Ringlet   9. Speckled Wood   9. Comma   9. Comma   9. Comma  
10. Red Admiral   10. Small Tortoiseshell   10. Red Admiral   10. Large Skipper   10. Small Copper  


The most dramatic result was the north/south divide in the performance of the Small Tortoiseshell. Amazingly, the Small Tortoiseshell was the second most common butterfly in North East England, and also did well in the North West (seventh place) and Yorkshire and the Humber (seventh place). In stark contrast, in South East England the species came a miserable 18th place and it fared little better in East of England (15th place) or London (13th place). Those who saw the Small Tortoiseshell during big butterfly counts in the North East recorded an average of six individuals whereas those in the South East encountered an average of only two butterflies.

Moths seemed to fare very well in the East of England. Two moths made it into the East of England Top 10, the Six-spot Burnet (fifth place) and Silver Y (seventh place) whereas no moths were in the Top 10 for any other region! What's more, people who recorded the Silver Y in the East of England saw an average of six individuals whereas those in other regions saw only two or three moths on average. The Silver Y is a highly migratory species that sometimes arrives in huge numbers so perhaps there had been an influx into eastern England around the time of the big butterfly count.

The performance of the Gatekeeper is again worthy of mention. It was the most common butterfly in North West England, as well as in the North East, South East and in London. The numbers seen in the capital were particularly impressive with almost twice as many Gatekeepers counted in London as the next most common butterfly, the Small White. In the 1980s, the Gatekeeper was only found around the fringes of London, but it has gradually been spreading into more urban areas helped, perhaps, by more wildlife-friendly management of parks and gardens. The big butterfly count provides further evidence of this trend, with Gatekeepers reported from Regent's Park and Clapham Common, as well as many of London's outlying green spaces.

Tigers prowling London

Another species that appears to be doing well in London is the Jersey Tiger moth. Although not one of the 'target' species for big butterfly count, many of you kindly let us know about your sightings of this spectacular moth which flies by day and at night. Jersey Tigers have traditionally been confined to south Devon and the Channel Islands, but in recent years they've expanded their range in the West Country and also become established on the Sussex coast and the Isle of Wight. There had also been a few sightings in Forest Hill, south London, much to the surprise of experts. However, big butterfly count-ers recorded a substantial increase in London in 2010. Jersey Tigers were reported much more widely in the south London suburbs, from Thornton Heath right up to Kennington, just a few streets away from The Oval cricket ground and a stone’s throw from the River; the moth is clearly spreading its wings and establishing itself further afield.

More people took part in the South East than in any other English region, but all regions had a good coverage of participants. The South West, however, was the place to see the greatest number of butterflies - each big butterfly count participant saw an average of 24 individual butterflies and moths in 2010, slightly ahead of the South East and Yorkshire and the Humber, where people counted at total of 22 on average. The abundance of butterflies seen declined in the far north and also in London, which had the lowest average count (11 individual butterflies and moths).

Carry on counting

It will be fascinating to see how things change region by region in the years ahead. Species such as the Gatekeeper, Comma, Small Skipper and Ringlet are expanding their ranges, almost certainly in response to climate change. Many others are in decline. We need to keep our finger on the pulse of nature so make sure you take part in big butterfly count 2011.

View Big Butterfly Count website