Every year in late July and early August the Big Butterfly Count takes place across the UK. This year it is running from Friday 17th July to Sunday 9th August.
Organised by the Butterfly Conservation charity, this citizen science survey is aimed at assessing the health of the natural world. As they respond rapidly to changes in their environment, butterflies are a key indicator of biodiversity. They are vital to ecosystems, both as pollinators and as a part of the food web.
If butterflies are in decline, then an early warning system is being sounded for other species. And, unfortunately, butterfly numbers have significantly reduced since the 1970s. By surveying butterflies, we are ‘taking the pulse of nature’.
In 2019 over 113,500 citizen scientists took part in the Big Butterfly Count, and there were 116,009 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths submitted. The first count took place in 2010 and over the past ten years it has grown to be the biggest butterfly survey in the world. Hopefully, this year’s will be even bigger.
Butterfly Conservation use the data that is gathered during the counts in order to identify trends in species. From this they can plan the future steps necessary to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as further developing an understanding of the effects of climate change on wildlife.
For day 47 of 365 Days Wild I made my first butterfly count of 2020 as I walked through the meadow at the village Nature Project. A count should last for 15 minutes. You can undertake as many counts as you want during the dates of the Big Butterfly Count, in the same place on different dates, or in different places. It’s best to do your count during sunny weather… which today wasn’t. Hmm.
Despite the lack of light, there were still a fair few butterflies out and about, even if it wasn’t as many as are often present in the meadow. The 6-spotted Burnet Moths, however, definitely didn’t seem to be affected by the weather!
Here is what I spotted during my 15 minute count:
6 Spotted Burnet Moth – 37
Meadow Brown – 11
Small White – 6
Ringlet – 3
Gatekeeper – 2
Red Admiral – 1
Comma – 1
I was surprised to find that Small Skippers are not include in the count – I also spotted 5 of these. There were quite a few butterflies that I didn’t see at all during my count, though, that I’ve been regularly spotting in the meadow. These included: Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Large White, and Small Copper butterflies and the Silver Y Moth. There were also far fewer Ringlets about than I’ve grown used to seeing. Hopefully they’ll all be around so I can include them in future counts.