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Comma on lavender

Big Butterfly Count

Take part in the world's biggest butterfly survey, and help Butterfly Conservation to find out which species are struggling and which are thriving

Butterflies are some of the UK's best-loved insects, and watching them flit around gardens, parks and woodlands is one of the joys of sunny summer days.


But sadly, our butterflies are in trouble. Earlier this year, scientists from Butterfly Conservation put together a new Red List assessment, revealing a 26% increase in the number of species threatened with extinction – with 24 species threatened, and eight endangered. It makes British butterflies among the most threatened in Europe.


Climate change is having a big impact on these insects – especially those found in northerly locations, where warmer temperatures are affecting species that are

adapted to cooler or damper climates.


There is hope for British butterflies though – with targeted conservation that improves key landscapes for these iconic insects, the risk of extinction of many threatened species can be reduced.

Peacock on thistle

One way we can help butterflies is to take part in the Big Butterfly Count. This nationwide survey aims to find out which butterfly species are thriving and which are struggling – and also helps to assess the health of our planet.


Butterflies react very quickly to changes in their environment. This makes them excellent biodiversity indicators, with butterfly declines being an early warning for other wildlife losses.


Because of this, the survey is an invaluable way of assessing the impacts of climate change – not just on butterflies, but on all sorts of wildlife.


First launched in 2010, Big Butterfly Count is now the world's biggest survey of butterflies. More than 107,000 citizen scientists took part in 2021, submitting 152,039 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK.


The Big Butterfly Count runs until 7 August, and it's easy to take part. Simply choose a spot to watch for butterflies and spend 15 minutes recording the species you see. Butterfly Conservation also wants to hear about your moth sightings, so keep a look out for these too! Then submit your sightings via the website or app.


For the best results, choose a still sunny day and find a place where there are plenty of nectar-rich plants that attract butterflies. This could be in your garden, a local park, a field, a wood, or any other public green space where butterflies might be seen.


You can submit separate records for different dates at the same place, and for different places that you visit. And your count is useful even if you don't see any butterflies or moths.


To download a free butterfly identification chart and take part in the Big Butterfly Count, visit www.bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org.


What will I see?

There are around 60 different species of butterfly in the UK, and of these around 22 species are commonly seen in gardens. Here are eight often-seen butterflies to look out for.

Comma on bramble leaf

Comma

The scallop-edged wings of the comma make it easy to identify. It's a medium-sized golden-brown butterfly with dark markings all over the wings.

Small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell

Despite the name, this is a medium-large butterfly with very distinctive blue markings along the wing edges. It's one of the UK's most widespread species and is often the first to emerge in spring.

Large white

Large white

One of four common species of white butterflies that are likely to be seen in gardens. The large white has black wing tips and two spots on the undersides of the wings. Females also have two spots on the forewings. Also known as the 'cabbage white' because of its tendency to lay eggs on brassicas – but they love nasturtium leaves too, so plant these easy-to-grow flowers to protect your crops!

Painted lady

Painted lady

A summer visitor to the UK, sometimes causing a migration spectacle as they flock into Britain and Ireland from North Africa, central Asia and the Middle East. A medium-sized butterfly with striking orange, black and white wings.


Peacock butterfly

Peacock

The peacock has unmistakable eye-like markings on its wings and is one of our most beautiful and colourful butterflies. It's a largish butterfly which can be seen in woodland clearings and other countryside areas, as well as in parks and gardens.

Speckled wood

Speckled wood

Found in woodland, gardens, parks and hedgerows – particularly damp and shady areas with tall grass – this brown butterfly has wings speckled with creamy spots. It rarely feeds on flower nectar, preferring honeydew – a sugar-rich sticky liquid, secreted by aphids, which can be found in treetops.

Red admiral butterfly

Red admiral

A large butterfly with spectacular red, white and black colouring. They migrate from North Africa and Europe to the UK – the females then lay eggs, with a new generation of butterflies emerging in July. They can often be seen feeding on buddleia, ivy flowers and fallen fruit well into autumn. Red admirals rely quite heavily on nettles as a food plant for the caterpillars.

Gatekeeper butterfly

Gatekeeper

As the name suggests, often seen at gates and other edges, such as hedgerows, where flowers and tall grasses grow. Orange wings with brown edges and a black spot on each forewing.

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Little Green Space July 2022