Charity concern as butterfly numbers fall to lowest level

Butterfly numbers across the country have fallen to the lowest level for more than a decade, according to a wildlife charity following its annual survey.

A large white butterfly as spotted during the Big Butterfly Count. Photo: Peter Eeles

Butterfly Conservation is the charity which has been working with the London Wildlife Trust and naturalists at Hutchinson’s Bank, New Addington, to improve wildlife habitat and encourage some of Britain’s rarest and most under-threat butterflies, moths and orchid species.

Each year since 2009 they have carried out the Big Butterfly Count, encouraging the public to note and log their sightings. And this year’s count showed butterfly numbers down overall by one-third on 2019.

The 2020 Big Butterfly Count took place in July and August, when more than 1.4million butterflies were counted across the country.

“This summer has not seen an abundance of butterflies,” according to Dr Zoë Randle, the senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation.

“We do see peaks and troughs of butterfly numbers each year. Last year, for example, we saw a huge influx of migrant Painted Lady butterflies. The data from the Big Butterfly Count is an important snapshot which, along with our other monitoring schemes, helps our understanding of the rates of decline of butterflies and moths.

Number crunching: figures from the 2020 Big Butterfly Count may be a cause for concern

“Coming so shortly after the recent WWF and UN reports on the global biodiversity crisis, these 2020 results illustrate the perilous state of wildlife in the UK. We need to see initiatives both here and across the world to put nature on a path to recovery.

“The fall in butterfly numbers this summer may be due to a number of factors. An unusually warm spring led many species to emerge earlier than usual. So we may have only caught the tail-end of the flight period for many species during this year’s Big Butterfly Count.

“It’s important to look at butterfly trends over longer periods, so our scientists will be using these results alongside our other datasets to get a clearer understanding of what is happening.”

With so many people working from home or off school during the covid-19 lockdown, this year saw the highest number of butterfly sightings ever submitted by the general public: 111,628 participants submitting a record-breaking 145,249 counts this year, an increase of 25 per cent on 2019.

“It seems that, in a very dark and challenging year, the opportunity for getting out into nature and helping as citizen scientists was very welcome to people who were able to participate in the count this year,” Butterfly Conservation said.

According to the charity, “Butterflies and moths are incredibly valuable indicators of the health of our environment. Their declines show not only the effects of human behaviour on the world around us but also the changing patterns of our weather. As well as being important and beautiful creatures in themselves, they play key roles in the ecosystems of birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants as food, population controllers and pollinators. Their conservation is vitally important.”

For more information about Butterfly Conservation or to sign up for their newsletter, visit their website

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1 Response to Charity concern as butterfly numbers fall to lowest level

  1. Maria says:

    Had so many different butterflies in my garden this year new Addington

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