Butterfly numbers ‘worryingly low’ despite good weather | Science and technology news
Butterfly numbers are still “worryingly low” although a warm and sunny spell has led to increased sightings of certain butterfly species in summer.
Sightings of popular garden species, the comma, up 95% year-on-year, according to yearbook results Big butterfly count In the United Kingdom.
The gatekeeper, a species commonly found along hedgerows and forest paths and in gardens, was the most frequently sighted butterfly in this year’s census, up 58% from last year.
But experts fear the UK’s population of butterflies and diurnal moths is still declining, with wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation calling the numbers “worryingly low”.
dr Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation’s Scientific Director, said: “Given the good weather we experienced in many parts of the UK, we might have expected this summer to have been a lot better for butterflies.
“The fact that more butterflies have not been seen is worrying and it is clear that much more needs to be done to protect and restore habitats to support nature’s recovery.
“The sun could shine for days, but we still won’t see butterflies unless there’s a habitat for them to thrive.”
Read more: Britain’s bizarre and wonderful woodland wildlife, including a ‘stinkhorn’ phallus
Almost 100,000 butterfly counts were taken between July 15 and August 7 as citizen scientists spent a total of more than two and a half years counting different species in their gardens, parks and countryside.
The results show an average of just under nine butterflies per count, which conservationists say is an all-time low in the 13 years since the project began.
However, some species have increased, including the Common Blue and Holly Blue with 154% and 120% gains respectively.
The holly blue was only occasionally recorded in Scotland before the 2000s, but after becoming firmly established in Edinburgh from 2006 and Ayr from 2008, the species has subsequently spread across parts of Scotland, the experts said.
The comma has also made a slow comeback from its nadir in the 1910s, rapidly expanding its range northwest, the team added.
dr Zoe Randle, Senior Survey Officer at Butterfly Conservation, said: “The vast majority of Big Butterfly Counts are conducted in gardens, making this data particularly valuable as this type of habitat is underrepresented in many of our other programs.
“We can create a habitat for butterflies like Holly Blue and Comma in our gardens by growing holly and flowering ivy for the former and hops, elms and nettles for the latter.
“Wildlife-friendly gardens can provide vital habitat for these insects, providing them with places to feed, breed and shelter.”
One of the largest citizen science projects of its kind, The Big Butterfly Count is helping scientists collect vital data on how butterflies and moths are coping with climate change and habitat loss.
Next year’s count will take place from July 14th to August 6th.