Poor Summer Hits Butterfly Numbers
Poor Summer Hits Butterfly Numbers

Poor Summer Hits Butterfly Numbers

Red Admiral

Red Admiral (credit: wwarby)

This year has not seen the best of summers and butterflies appear to have been hit by the poor weather conditions. The results of the UK Big Butterfly Count 2011 indicates there were 11% fewer sightings compared to last year. One species, the Common blue, was particularly hard hit with number down by 61%.

34,000 people took part in Big Butterfly Count 2011.

The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s largest public butterfly survey carried out by Butterfly Conservation with funding from M&S. This year over 34,000 people submitted over 320,000 butterfly sightings. [pullquote]Unfortunately, the results show that it was a poor summer for butterflies with many species showing declines compared to last year.[/pullquote]

This year has seen one of the coldest summers for 18 years and this meant that butterflies had difficulties in flying and feeding. There were high hopes that following a very warm and sunny spring that the summer would be ideal for butterflies. Sadly that did not occur.

The cold temperatures and greater than average rainfall could also impact on next years butterfly numbers as the conditions were not beneficial to mating and egg laying.

Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation Surveys Manager said: “The fantastic response of the UK public to Big Butterfly Count 2011 has given us a detailed snapshot of how butterflies fared this summer. Twice as many counts were carried out this year as in 2010.

“Unfortunately, the results show that it was a poor summer for butterflies with many species showing declines compared to last year.

“The dismal summer weather, the coldest for 18 years, is undoubtedly to blame, although many butterflies have suffered long-term declines as a result of destruction of their habitats by human activities.

“In bad summers, butterflies need all the help they can get from people to maintain their breeding areas.

Richard Gillies, M&S Director of Plan A said: “We’d like to thank all of our customers and employees for taking part in this year’s Big Butterfly Count, it’s great to see that twice as many people took part compared to last year.

“We hope the results and the Count will help to raise awareness about how important butterflies are to the environment.

Some winners and some losers in this year’s butterfly survey.

It was not all bad news though for butterflies. Once again gardens showed themselves to be an oasis for wildlife conservation with the Red Admiral jumping in number by 98%.  The Small Tortoiseshell also appeared to have halted it’s severe decline over the last few years with numbers remaining about static. An interesting result of the survey showed that the small tortoiseshell was much more prevalent in Scotland than in England with 3 times as many sightings.

One of the most common butterflies though has not faired so well. The Gatekeeper – this years most spotted butterfly – appears to have fallen in numbers by about 12%.

The biggest winners this year appeared to be butterflies whose caterpillars fed on grasses – a reflection of the poor summer for many wild plants. 

For the first time since the survey began a day flying moth made it into the top 10 most common list with the appearance of the 6 spot burnet moth.

10 most common butterflies in the UK.

Butterfly Conservation was able to put together a list of the 10 most common butterfly species in the UK from the results of the survey.

The Big Butterfly Count was conducted between 16th July and 7th August this year. The results have just been released which includes an interactive map showing individual sightings by habitat type.  You can access the map through the link below.

  • Gatekeeper (52,368 seen)
  • Small white (47,944)
  • Large white (42,822)
  • Meadow Brown (32,183)
  • Red Admiral (25,400)
  • Peacock (23,212)
  • Speckled Wood (16,341)
  • Green-veined White (12,893)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (12,298)
  • Six-spot Burnet moth (10,932)



External sites:

Big Butterfly Count 2011 results.

Posted in Insects and tagged .
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