Fluttering back: how last year's hot summer has helped boost butterflies

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. Picture: Tim Melling

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. Picture: Tim Melling

First published in News by

It was the best summer for seven years, but while most of us were enjoying the sunshine, there was also cause for celebration in the butterfly world.

A survey by Purbeck-based Butterfly Conservation has revealed that the glorious weather of 2013 saw typical farmland species such as the Brimstone, Common Blue, Small Copper, Small Skipper, Large Skipper and Small Tortoiseshell all bounce back after experiencing a crash in numbers during 2012.

The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS), which assesses the fortunes of common and widespread species, found that many farmland butterflies flourished as a result of long periods of warm, sunny weather last summer.

WCBS Co-ordinator Dr Zoë Randle, from Butterfly Conservation, said: “Farmland butterflies really thrived last year primarily due to the fantastic summer weather which provided ideal conditions with several recording their best ever WCBS results.”

The annual survey, running since 2009, counts butterflies in more than 850 randomly selected 1km-squares across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to assess the health of butterfly populations across the wider countryside rather than at specially managed hotspots such as nature reserves.

Hedgerows and field margins that are characteristic of farmland are an important habitat for butterflies. Overall, the majority of farmland species recovered in 2013 after suffering one of the worst years on record for butterflies in 2012.

Last year recorders saw an average of 85 butterflies of five species per survey made over July and August – almost double the numbers recorded in 2012.

The Small Tortoiseshell, which has suffered an ongoing decline, recorded its best summer since the start of WCBS. More than 6,833 individuals were counted with the butterfly seen in 80 per cent of squares compared to just 40 per cent in 2012.

Following an appalling 2012, the Common Blue also enjoyed a good year with an average five-fold increase in abundance per-square. The Small Copper and Brimstone also thrived – and were both more widespread and abundant than in the previous year.

The Large White and Small White, commonly known as the ‘cabbage whites’, were also recorded in profusion with more than twice the number of Large Whites counted per square and five times the number of Small Whites in 2013 than in 2012.

For the fifth year in succession the Meadow Brown was the most widespread and abundant species. The butterfly was recorded in more than 90 per cent of squares with 8,000 more butterflies counted in 2013 than 2012.

The Holly Blue and Red Admiral were among the minority of species that didn’t have such a good year with numbers down for both compared to 2012.

Kate Risely, who co-ordinates the Breeding Bird Survey butterfly surveyors at the BTO, said: “It’s great news that populations of widespread butterfly species increased in 2013.

“These results demonstrate the value of large-scale volunteer surveys for monitoring country-wide trends in butterfly numbers. Recording butterflies and birds at the same sites gives us a unique insight into the health of our countryside.”

The WCBS is run by Butterfly Conservation, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) as part of the United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring scheme (UKBMS).

Comments (9)

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11:49am Sun 20 Apr 14

a.g.o.g. says...

Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full" days of my distant youth will never be recovered.
We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.
Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full" days of my distant youth will never be recovered. We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World. a.g.o.g.
  • Score: 7

12:31pm Sun 20 Apr 14

Splisha says...

a.g.o.g. wrote:
Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full
" days of my distant youth will never be recovered.
We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.
Here here
[quote][p][bold]a.g.o.g.[/bold] wrote: Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full " days of my distant youth will never be recovered. We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.[/p][/quote]Here here Splisha
  • Score: -2

1:05pm Sun 20 Apr 14

elite50 says...

Splisha wrote:
a.g.o.g. wrote:
Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full

" days of my distant youth will never be recovered.
We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.
Here here
Where, where?
Or don't you mean Hear, hear!
On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern.
We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth.
Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left.
Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have.
[quote][p][bold]Splisha[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]a.g.o.g.[/bold] wrote: Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full " days of my distant youth will never be recovered. We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.[/p][/quote]Here here[/p][/quote]Where, where? Or don't you mean Hear, hear! On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern. We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth. Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left. Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have. elite50
  • Score: -1

1:58pm Sun 20 Apr 14

Ivy says...

To be fair to our local Councils they are trying by leaving verges and other grass areas to grow and they're planting wildflower seeds. Unfortuantely though they are receiving complaints by idiots that claim it looks untidy! Sadly a lot of them are of the older generation (as I am), I do despair!
To be fair to our local Councils they are trying by leaving verges and other grass areas to grow and they're planting wildflower seeds. Unfortuantely though they are receiving complaints by idiots that claim it looks untidy! Sadly a lot of them are of the older generation (as I am), I do despair! Ivy
  • Score: 2

2:15pm Sun 20 Apr 14

Morrigan says...

Ivy wrote:
To be fair to our local Councils they are trying by leaving verges and other grass areas to grow and they're planting wildflower seeds. Unfortuantely though they are receiving complaints by idiots that claim it looks untidy! Sadly a lot of them are of the older generation (as I am), I do despair!
I am only too happy to see verges alive with wild flowers and buzzing insects, but as you say many people complain about "weeds: and looking untidy. Sadly those sort of people (mainly older folk) will not be around to see the devastation that will result in the total loss of insects and pollinators, so we that are left must act NOW and one of the ways in which we can ALL help is to STOP using chemical weedkillers etc in our gardens.

Sure it will mean a little more work to get rid of those flowers/weeds that some of us prefer not to have, but it will be much better for the planet and our children/grandchildr
en etc.

My garden is beautiful when in full bloom with wild meadow flowers and a portion of it left to nature - and what is more, it has helped my grandchildren to learn about the environment and nature. They are never happier than looking in my log pile for grass snakes, or watching butterflies, so if they can do it at their ages (3 and 4), we can all do it. Some of you may be surprised just how much interest you can get in a garden which is visited by insects and small animals/birds so PLEASE stop using chemicals!
[quote][p][bold]Ivy[/bold] wrote: To be fair to our local Councils they are trying by leaving verges and other grass areas to grow and they're planting wildflower seeds. Unfortuantely though they are receiving complaints by idiots that claim it looks untidy! Sadly a lot of them are of the older generation (as I am), I do despair![/p][/quote]I am only too happy to see verges alive with wild flowers and buzzing insects, but as you say many people complain about "weeds: and looking untidy. Sadly those sort of people (mainly older folk) will not be around to see the devastation that will result in the total loss of insects and pollinators, so we that are left must act NOW and one of the ways in which we can ALL help is to STOP using chemical weedkillers etc in our gardens. Sure it will mean a little more work to get rid of those flowers/weeds that some of us prefer not to have, but it will be much better for the planet and our children/grandchildr en etc. My garden is beautiful when in full bloom with wild meadow flowers and a portion of it left to nature - and what is more, it has helped my grandchildren to learn about the environment and nature. They are never happier than looking in my log pile for grass snakes, or watching butterflies, so if they can do it at their ages (3 and 4), we can all do it. Some of you may be surprised just how much interest you can get in a garden which is visited by insects and small animals/birds so PLEASE stop using chemicals! Morrigan
  • Score: 3

2:24pm Sun 20 Apr 14

a.g.o.g. says...

elite50 wrote:
Splisha wrote:
a.g.o.g. wrote:
Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full


" days of my distant youth will never be recovered.
We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.
Here here
Where, where?
Or don't you mean Hear, hear!
On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern.
We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth.
Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left.
Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have.
tho` technically correct on grammar you are sadly wrong about how we might ``protect what is left`` as continue to open Natures doors to yet more human invasion and consequent despoliation of its delicate fabric in our short-sighted efforts to ``appreciate`` it.
``The Day Paradise put a Parking Lot`` says it all.(near enough),.
You don`t have to go very far to find them....
[quote][p][bold]elite50[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Splisha[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]a.g.o.g.[/bold] wrote: Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full " days of my distant youth will never be recovered. We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.[/p][/quote]Here here[/p][/quote]Where, where? Or don't you mean Hear, hear! On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern. We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth. Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left. Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have.[/p][/quote]tho` technically correct on grammar you are sadly wrong about how we might ``protect what is left`` as continue to open Natures doors to yet more human invasion and consequent despoliation of its delicate fabric in our short-sighted efforts to ``appreciate`` it. ``The Day Paradise put a Parking Lot`` says it all.(near enough),. You don`t have to go very far to find them.... a.g.o.g.
  • Score: -1

2:50pm Sun 20 Apr 14

FriendsofKC says...

Must say that the butterfly numbers seen so far this year on Kinson Common are very encouraging.
We should all help them a little in our own gardens as well by planting wildflowers!
Must say that the butterfly numbers seen so far this year on Kinson Common are very encouraging. We should all help them a little in our own gardens as well by planting wildflowers! FriendsofKC
  • Score: 4

5:53pm Sun 20 Apr 14

stevobath says...

a.g.o.g. wrote:
elite50 wrote:
Splisha wrote:
a.g.o.g. wrote:
Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full



" days of my distant youth will never be recovered.
We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.
Here here
Where, where?
Or don't you mean Hear, hear!
On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern.
We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth.
Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left.
Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have.
tho` technically correct on grammar you are sadly wrong about how we might ``protect what is left`` as continue to open Natures doors to yet more human invasion and consequent despoliation of its delicate fabric in our short-sighted efforts to ``appreciate`` it.
``The Day Paradise put a Parking Lot`` says it all.(near enough),.
You don`t have to go very far to find them....
Not quite sure as to what your' comment means?
Translate...

I myself have noticed a proliferation in butterflies in the fields etc near to my home.

Lots of 'peacocks' this year so far.
[quote][p][bold]a.g.o.g.[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]elite50[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Splisha[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]a.g.o.g.[/bold] wrote: Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full " days of my distant youth will never be recovered. We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.[/p][/quote]Here here[/p][/quote]Where, where? Or don't you mean Hear, hear! On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern. We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth. Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left. Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have.[/p][/quote]tho` technically correct on grammar you are sadly wrong about how we might ``protect what is left`` as continue to open Natures doors to yet more human invasion and consequent despoliation of its delicate fabric in our short-sighted efforts to ``appreciate`` it. ``The Day Paradise put a Parking Lot`` says it all.(near enough),. You don`t have to go very far to find them....[/p][/quote]Not quite sure as to what your' comment means? Translate... I myself have noticed a proliferation in butterflies in the fields etc near to my home. Lots of 'peacocks' this year so far. stevobath
  • Score: 2

9:45am Mon 21 Apr 14

a.g.o.g. says...

stevobath wrote:
a.g.o.g. wrote:
elite50 wrote:
Splisha wrote:
a.g.o.g. wrote:
Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full




" days of my distant youth will never be recovered.
We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.
Here here
Where, where?
Or don't you mean Hear, hear!
On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern.
We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth.
Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left.
Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have.
tho` technically correct on grammar you are sadly wrong about how we might ``protect what is left`` as continue to open Natures doors to yet more human invasion and consequent despoliation of its delicate fabric in our short-sighted efforts to ``appreciate`` it.
``The Day Paradise put a Parking Lot`` says it all.(near enough),.
You don`t have to go very far to find them....
Not quite sure as to what your' comment means?
Translate...

I myself have noticed a proliferation in butterflies in the fields etc near to my home.

Lots of 'peacocks' this year so far.
Joni Mitchell must have been before your time then Steve. The lyrics will be on-line somewhere tho` for sure if you are interested.
But yes the March Sun has brought out a few early-birds but numbers are nothing like they used to be.
[quote][p][bold]stevobath[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]a.g.o.g.[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]elite50[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Splisha[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]a.g.o.g.[/bold] wrote: Sadly the rigor with which our roadside hedges and verges are decapitated on regular basis and gardens preened of unwanted natural flora those "butterfly-full " days of my distant youth will never be recovered. We (people) do not care enough in sufficient depth to prevent the progressive destruction of what remains of our Natural World.[/p][/quote]Here here[/p][/quote]Where, where? Or don't you mean Hear, hear! On a more serious note, the state of butterflies, birds and all of the local wildlife is an on-going concern. We live on a small island with (still) immense wealth. Take a drive in what is left of the country and you will find pockets of immense beauty. We need to protect what is left. Maybe certain areas need to be pushed back into truly rural areas where motorised traffic is monitored to protect what we still have.[/p][/quote]tho` technically correct on grammar you are sadly wrong about how we might ``protect what is left`` as continue to open Natures doors to yet more human invasion and consequent despoliation of its delicate fabric in our short-sighted efforts to ``appreciate`` it. ``The Day Paradise put a Parking Lot`` says it all.(near enough),. You don`t have to go very far to find them....[/p][/quote]Not quite sure as to what your' comment means? Translate... I myself have noticed a proliferation in butterflies in the fields etc near to my home. Lots of 'peacocks' this year so far.[/p][/quote]Joni Mitchell must have been before your time then Steve. The lyrics will be on-line somewhere tho` for sure if you are interested. But yes the March Sun has brought out a few early-birds but numbers are nothing like they used to be. a.g.o.g.
  • Score: 1

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