The new season’s adult butterflies are emerging and it is time for the world’s largest citizen science butterfly survey, the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group invites you all to take part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count 2024.  

Now in its fourteenth year, the count involves thousands of people across the country spending time counting the butterflies and day flying moths in their gardens, their parks and countryside.

It is easy to take part, just spend 15 minutes on a warm sunny day counting how many butterflies you can see, what’s not to like?  You are provided with an identification chart of the twenty butterflies and moths in the survey and asked to enter the results onto a simple online form.  Of course, you can do more than one count, last year I enjoyed nine sessions on my country walks during which I saw over 200 butterflies and moths.  

Unsurprisingly, I saw the most in places like The Byes and Delderfield Nature Reserve, but it is just as important from a scientific point of view to record what is happening in people’s gardens because that is where most of us can do something to help.  One thing to think about is that many people grow flowers to feed the butterflies with nectar, but fewer people have plants that will feed the caterpillars, fewercaterpillars, fewer butterflies.

The whole point of the survey is to track how the butterfly populations are faring, and it isn’t good news.  Compared to fifty years ago, all the evidence suggests there has been a catastrophic drop in the numbers of insects in the UK because of changes to our environment, and butterflies are a convenient group to use almost like canaries in the coal mineto give a warning that something is wrong.

Whatever the long term changes there are fluctuations from year to year and the weather is the most significant short term factor.  2022 was the worst year in the butterfly count’s history because the weather was awful at the key time but last year was much better.  What is consistent is the identity of the top species, with Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers in the countryside and Peacocks and Red Admirals in town.

Why not join us this year and do your bit to further our understanding while also having a pleasant experience.  There is more information on the Big Butterfly Count website https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org.

Ed Dolphin

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