Big Butterfly Count

If you’re in Britain, Butterfly Conservation invites you to take part in this year’s Big Butterfly Count. This will be fun. Also it will be useful because butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) tell us what’s happening on the land. That is, they’re great indicator species.

Our butterflies are in a bad way. The BBC’s Nature Notes pages tell us that UK butterfly numbers are at a historic low. No doubt this is partly due to the last year’s weird weather. But there are longer-term declines too, for example the small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae).

The Big Butterfly Count is only supposed to take 15 minutes. I think I’ll do it in my back garden. The easy identification chart looks useful. They’re not asking us to identify a lot of rare species, just the ones we’re likely to see. If I’m lucky I might see a small tortoiseshell.

As you know, I’m learning about Lepidoptera with support from my fellow blogger Finn Holding at The Naturephile. Also several other ecologists and gardeners whose blogs I follow, including Mike Dilger at The Garden Smallholder. I’m grateful to Mike for announcing the Big Butterfly Count. You can watch a film of him on the Big Butterfly Count website. Across the Pond, I’m grateful to Sandy Steinman at Natural History Wanderings for pointing out how British butterflies are important to watch.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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10 Responses to Big Butterfly Count

  1. Jenny says:

    Brilliant. We have this in the US but it’s for birds. Going to see if a butterfly count exists, too.

    • argylesock says:

      There’s a birding one here too http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/results.aspx That gives me hope that a butterfly count might exist in the States. The monarch story is one that’s caught my attention (likely damage to its larval food plant, attributed to Roundup Ready crops) but I confess that I know little about your other lepidopterans. Learning the British ones is my current challenge!

  2. Jenny says:

    Rightly so! One area’s lepidopterans are quite a handful, much less a whole country’s!

    It’s very sad about the monarch. I’ve seen a few this year, but all were in the Adirondack mountains, about a six hour’s drive from here. We sell various milkweeds at my work, and I see lots of them growing wild, so the butterfly’s absence is especially concerning.. Hopefully my butterfly bush will attract some to the garden…last year it was covered in them, despite overall low numbers then, too.

  3. Carol Hague says:

    Thanks for posting about this – I shall see about having a go at it, maybe at the weekend.

    I haven’t seen nearly as many butterflies as usual this year, and then mostly whites.

  4. Pingback: Bees and butterflies are doing surprisingly well in Britain | Science on the Land

  5. Pingback: Butterflies in Britain, summer 2013 | Science on the Land

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