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Brits encouraged to join nationwide Butterfly Count to save species from extinction

Nature-loving Brits are being asked to go on a mass butterfly count in a last-ditch bid to save some species from extinction.

More than two-fifths of the nation’s butterflies are in danger of dying out due to climate change and pollution, experts warn.

They say there is still time to bring species bad from the brink – but it needs swift action from the public.

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation wants people to take part in its Big Butterfly Count, which begins today.

It says the citizen science survey gives experts important data on how the popular insects are faring.

The counts acts as an “early warning system”, helping to show how environmental changes are affecting insects.

By running a nationwide count, data can also be gathered from areas that would otherwise be unrecorded.

The charity said observing butterflies in nature as part of the count can also be good for people’s mental health.

Butterfly Conservation warned it is not just rare species that are under threat of extinction.

Common butterflies, which are featured in the count, have also seen significant declines.

The small tortoiseshell, once found in gardens throughout the country, has fallen by a massive 79% since 1976.

Last year people submitted 150,000 sets of results to the Big Butterfly Count, more than ever before.

But worryingly it also saw the lowest average number of butterflies logged since the scheme began 13 years ago.

Experts at Butterfly Conservation want to know if that trend is continuing in 2022.

Dr Zoe Randle said: “We really need people’s help to help us figure out where our butterflies are and what we need to do to save them.

“The Big Butterfly Count is the largest natural history citizen science project involving insects in the world.

“It provides us with a valuable snapshot of what is happening for butterflies across the whole of the UK.

“It can act as an early-warning system, letting us know how various environmental changes are impacting insects.

“It also allows us to gather vital data from places that would otherwise be totally unrecorded.”

Butterfly Conservation ambassador Dr Amir Khan said: “Spending time in nature is hugely beneficial to our mental health.

“Just a short amount of time spent in the natural world can alleviate stress.

“And connecting with nature can help us feel happier and more energised.

“Watching butterflies for just 15 minutes can be a wonderful and calming experience.”

People can take part by spending 15 minutes in an outdoor, sunny space and logging the types and amounts of butterflies they see.

This year’s count runs from today until August 7.

Top 10 butterflies to spot this Big Butterfly Count
1) Peacock
The Peacock butterfly is widespread throughout Britain and Ireland and can be easily identified by its striking patterns.

On its upper wings the blue eyespots were evolved to ward off predators, meanwhile the underside of their wings is of a dark colour, similar to that of dead leaves. The Peacock enjoys a wide range of habitats and is often spotted in gardens.

2) Red Admiral
The Red Admiral is a strong-flying butterfly and commonly found in gardens.

Starting each spring and continuing through the summer there are northward migrations, starting in North Africa and Continental Europe.

The females arrive in the UK and lays eggs, providing a new generation of butterflies from mid-summer (starting from around July).

These great travellers then continue their voyage flying into October and November.

Red Admirals can be found in almost any habitat from the seashores to the top of mountains.

3) Small Tortoiseshell
A highly-recognisable and well-known British butterfly is the Small Tortoiseshell.

These butterflies can visit garden flowers in high numbers and treat us to a swirl of orange and black colours fluttering through the air.

The Small Tortoiseshell’s caterpillars enjoy feeding on both Common and Small Nettle.

4) Large White
The Large White belongs to the Whites and Yellows Family and is a larger butterfly with a wingspan of 63-70mm (male to female).

These brilliant butterflies are identifiable by the black tips they have on their forewings which continue to the edge of their wing.

Meanwhile, the females also have two dots on their forewings which helps differentiate between the sexes.

Large Whites can be seen in all of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and enjoy gardens particularly around allotments growing cabbages.

5) Small White
A key difference between the Large and the Small White isn’t simply the size, as on occasion some Larges may be smaller, but that the Large White also has a larger spot on the tip of their forewing as mentioned above, which the Small White lacks.

The Small Whites have similar distributions and also enjoy cabbages.

6) Painted Lady
The Painted Lady is another migrant butterfly which comes from North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia.

They then recolonise in Europe before reaching Britain and Ireland,

however, population numbers do vary from year to year.

The Painted Lady enjoys drier and more open spaces but is fairly common so can be seen in many places across the UK.

The Painted Lady has also increased in their distribution by 14% since the 1970s.

7) Comma
The Comma appears to have more sculptured wings with scalloped edges and a colouring similar to dead leaves.

Meanwhile, their larvae have freckle-like brown and white spots.

The Comma made a significant comeback after it suffered an extreme decline in the twentieth century, and it is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards.

8) Meadow Brown
Even in dull weather when other species are not active the Meadow Brown can still be seen and is one of the most widely-spread butterflies throughout Britain and Ireland.

This butterfly enjoys a range of habitats including more urban areas such as parks and cemeteries.

However, some of the Meadow Brown’s colonies have been lost as a result of agricultural intensification.

9) Speckled Wood
Unlike other butterflies, both the male and female Speckled Woods rarely feed on flowers and instead prefer the honeydew found in treetops.

Therefore, they particularly enjoy woodland rides and glades.

However, they do also enjoy more shaded areas that are slightly damp. Since the 1920s this species has spread over many areas in the east and north of England, and also Scotland.

10) Holly Blue
The Holly Blue emerges earlier than other blue butterflies making it easily identifiable in the springtime.

Their distributions are spread out widely, but they can commonly be found in parks and gardens.

If you are looking out for the Holly Blue this month, they are known to congregate around Ivy later in the summer.