The 2020 Big Butterfly count has been running since 17th July but closes on the 9th August. And while it's a great contribution to nature conservation and biodiversity monitoring, it's a great way to learn more about butterflies. We've found that each time we counted, we were better at spotting, identifying and counting (they're pesky and flit about endlessly!)
All you need to do is sit in a sunny spot for 15 minutes (or for 15 minutes while on a walk) and count the butterflies you see. Over 113,500 citizen scientists took part in 2019, submitting 116,009 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK.
Why count butterflies?
Not just because they're beautiful but they're also vital parts of the ecosystem as both pollinators and components of the food chain. However, they are under threat. Numbers of butterflies and moths in the UK have decreased significantly since the 1970s. Butterflies also react very quickly to changes in their environment so they are key biodiversity indicators for scientists and an early warning for other wildlife losses.
It's easy to take part
Log on to the Big Butterfly Count website and follow their easy instructions (also reproduced below). You can find the identification chart for printing out here. The Big Butterfly Count website also has has apps for both Android and iOS phones, if you prefer to be out and about.
'Simply count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather during the Big Butterfly Count. This is the time of year when most butterflies are at the adult stage of their lifecycle, so more likely to be seen. Records are welcome from anywhere: from parks, school grounds and gardens, to fields and forests.
If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once.
If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.
Also please remember that if you don’t see any butterflies then let us know that too. It is very important that we know if there are areas where butterflies are not being seen – this may indicate a wider problem.'
Photograph of Orange Tip by Barbara Bromhead-Wragg