big butterfly count 2014

After the excellent results in 2013, big butterfly count 2014 saw many species drop back, although a few did really well. 

Participation was fantastic once again. Over 44,000 people took part, undertaking more than 43,500 counts of butterflies and moths right across the UK , and cementing the project's status as the biggest survey of butterflies in the world. A huge thank you to everyone who took part!

An incredible 94,000 people visited the big butterfly count website between April and August and the media, Twitter and Facebook were alive with news of the count, as Sir David Attenborough implored the UK public to “produce a statistic that is of real value” in assessing how our butterflies are faring. The big butterfly count Smartphone app, which was created last year, continued to grow in popularity; over 11,000 counts (27% of the total) were submitted directly from participants’ phones this year.

During the official big butterfly count period (19 July - 10 August) almost 560,000 individual butterflies and moths of the 21 target species were counted and logged online.

Species slump

The headline result of big butterfly count 2014 is that numbers of most of the target butterflies and day-flying moths decreased from the high point reached last year. Almost three quarters of species (15 of the 21 target species) showed year on year decreases and the average number of individual butterflies seen per count fell considerably, from 23 in 2013 to 15 this year.

These declines came in spite of months of above average temperatures and a lovely sunny July for much of the UK; conditions which should generally favour butterflies. However, the weather took a turn for the worse in August, curtailing the flight periods of many common butterflies and hastening others into hibernation. It was the coldest August since 1993 in the UK.

The common white butterflies all recorded a disappointing summer after bumper numbers last year. The Large White was down by 65%, Small White by 60% and Green-veined White by 47%. The Count’s two migrant species – the Painted Lady and Silver Y moth also had a lacklustre year.

The single-brooded species associated with summer meadows also declined dramatically in abundance, for the second big butterfly count in a row. The Meadow Brown (38% down on 2013), Ringlet (58% down), Marbled White (48% down) and Six-spot Burnet moth (59% down) all did badly. However, this may not be as worrying as it first seems as these species may have already bred successfully in July before many counts were undertaken. We'll find out in big butterfly count 2015!

Small Tortoiseshell fight back continues

While the majority of species decreased at the UK level, a few did well. Perhaps most notable and welcome among these success stories was the Small Tortoiseshell. After a fantastic comeback in 2013, following years of decline, Small Tortoiseshell populations increased again in big butterfly count 2014. Its numbers were up 22% on the 2013 count and the butterfly recorded its highest ever position in the big butterfly count results table, being the fourth most abundant species.This is an excellent result for a species that had suffered a 78% decrease in its UK population since the 1970s.

Other widespread butterflies that did well in big butterfly count 2014 included the Common Blue (up 55% on last year's Count), Red Admiral (43% up) and Speckled Wood (28% up).

Species results 2014

It was all change at the top of the big butterfly count chart this year. The spectacular Peacock was the most abundant species, the first time it has ever topped the rankings.  It achieved this despite its numbers actually decreasing (by 30% compared with 2013, when it finished in third place) thanks to the even greater declines of last year's top two species, Small White and Large White. Gatekeeper maintained its numbers compared to 2013 and moved up to second place.

The 2014 results for all 21 of the big butterfly count target butterfly and moth species are shown below:



% change from 2013










Small White




Small Tortoiseshell




Meadow Brown




Large White




Red Admiral




Green-veined White




Common Blue




Speckled Wood












Six-spot Burnet




Large Skipper




Small Copper




Painted Lady




Marbled White








Holly Blue








Silver Y



The Top 10 species for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can be found here.

The big butterfly count will return again next summer to enable us to identify longer term trends in our butterfly species. With your help, we can make it even bigger and better in 2015.

What you said about big butterfly count 2014

As usual we had lots of very enthusiastic and supportive comments from big butterfly count participants this year and wanted to share a few with you:

“On a grim news day it was life enhancing to watch a beautiful creature.” Ms H., Surrey

“Great idea and fun with kids to raise awareness for them about conservation.” Ms D., Essex

“Lovely way to spend 15 minutes. Opened our eyes to how beautiful butterflies are and not to take them for granted.” Ms S., Fife

“This year's big butterfly count has been so much fun! We went to the woods yesterday with the kids and saw some butterflies that don't come to the garden” Ms M., Liverpool

“Very surprised and pleased by the amount of butterflies we saw.” Mr T., Midlothian

“This is amazing! What a clever and fab idea!!! Wonderful taking part and getting the community involved!” Ms R., Wiltshire

“We are sisters aged 7 and 10 and we were visiting our Granny who helped us. We had a wonderful time and after we finished counting we spent a long time looking out for more butterflies.” Ms S., Cardiff

“There's little nicer than standing still for 15 minutes and enjoying your immediate surroundings while the rest of the world rushes by!” Mr L., Cambridgeshire

“It's the first time I've ever seen a Peacock butterfly in my garden!” Ms Mc., Co. Antrim

“Excellent app! Will recommend to everyone I know. Really helps learn which butterflies are which too!” Ms S., West Midlands

 “Just think it is such an excellent idea to monitor the state of butterflies in this way. I involved my 11yr old grandson to make him aware of these beautiful creatures.” Mr L., Devon

Thank you all for your comments, suggestions and queries. Unfortunately we are unable to respond to them individually and we hope that this website and the monthly All Aflutter e-mail newletters will help to answer some of your questions.

View Big Butterfly Count website