big butterfly count 2011 results: country by country

The most common species tend to be similar in each UK country, although the Gatekeeper doesn’t occur in Northern Ireland or Scotland. However, there are some interesting variations.

The Top 10 most abundant species in each UK country were as follows:


Northern Ireland



1. Gatekeeper

1. Green-veined White

1. Small Tortoiseshell

1. Large White

2. Small White

2. Ringlet

2. Small White

2. Meadow Brown

3. Large White

3. Small White

3. Ringlet

3. Small White

4. Meadow Brown

4. Meadow Brown

4. Meadow Brown

4. Gatekeeper

5. Red Admiral

5. Small Tortoiseshell

5. Green-veined White

5. Green-veined White

6. Peacock

6. Six-spot Burnet

6. Large White

6. Speckled Wood

7. Speckled Wood

7. Large White

7. Common Blue

7. Red Admiral

8. Green-veined White

8. Speckled Wood

8. Six-spot Burnet

8. Small Tortoiseshell

9. Small Tortoiseshell

9. Common Blue

9. Red Admiral

9. Ringlet

10. Six-spot Burnet

10. Red Admiral

10. Speckled Wood

10. Peacock

It’s great up north

Well certainly if you are a Small Tortoiseshell. One of the biggest, but very welcome, surprises among the results was that the Small Tortoiseshell topped the big butterfly count 2011 chart in Scotland (up from 4th place in 2010). In fact the butterfly moved up the top 10 in every country except England, where it stayed the same at number nine.

Three times as many Small Tortoiseshells were seen per count in Scotland and two-and-a-half times as many in Northern Ireland compared to counts in England. The same pattern was not seen for the closely-related Peacock, which was more abundant in England.

The dramatic decline of the Small Tortoiseshell in the UK over the past decade or so remains unexplained. Scientists at Oxford University and Butterfly Conservation found that a parasitic fly, Sturmia bella, which kills caterpillars and which has recently colonised southern parts of the UK, was having a negative impact on the Small Tortoiseshell but couldn’t be solely to blame for the butterfly’s decline.

Down south

One of the highlights in England and Wales was the performance of the Speckled Wood, which seemed to thrive despite (or perhaps because of) the poor summer weather. In England the species rose from 12th position in 2010 to 7th this year, and it showed a similar improvement in Wales, up four places to 6th spot. The Meadow Brown also seemed to improve in Wales during big butterfly count 2011, moving up to 2nd place from 5th last year, while the Red Admiral had a strong showing in England.

The big loser in England and Wales was undoubtedly the Common Blue. This butterfly had a great year in 2010, but unfortunately the success wasn’t carried through to the summer generation this year. It fell out of the Top 10 in both countries, dropping seven places in Wales and five in England, to end up in 11th position.

Northern Ireland gets counting

Although, as previously, the vast majority of counts took place in England (because more people live in England), Northern Ireland showed the biggest increase in big butterfly count participation in between 2010 and 2011. The number of counts undertaken in the Province increased by over 600% in 2011, a fantastic effort! Other UK countries did well too, with the number of counts in Scotland up 88% on 2010 and England and Wales also increasing by over 60% each.

Butterflies and moths don't recognise political borders so the involvement of people in all countries is absolutely vital to ensure the success of the big butterfly count and our ability to track the changing fortunes of the UK’s butterflies and moths.

View Big Butterfly Count website