A billion painted lady butterflies make for a record summer

The Independent's Butterfly Hunt boosted by sighting of Lulworth skipper

A A A

The Independent's Great British Butterfly Hunt reaches a climax today in the middle of one of Britain's most extraordinary butterfly summers – with a billion butterflies of one species about to take wing.

That is how many painted ladies are expected to be in the air across the country in the next couple of weeks, after the greatest ever invasion of the handsome, salmon-pink migratory species from North Africa at the end of May.

In a phenomenal population movement, up to 20 million individual butterflies are thought to have poured into Britain in the space of a few days, to lay their eggs on thistles from the south coast to Scotland – and now their multiple offspring, having gone through the stages of egg, caterpillar and chrysalis, are about to fly.

According to the charity Butterfly Conservation, there may be a billion of them, presenting people with the chance to spot butterflies in greater numbers than have been seen in Britain for years. Today, this newspaper is publishing Butterfly Summer, a comprehensive free guide to all 58 of Britain's butterfly species.

We had intended to publish this at the end of the hunt – when we had seen and reported on all 58. We haven't quite got there yet: with the sighting of the Lulworth skipper at Lulworth Cove in Dorset on Thursday, our total reached 52. But of the six remaining species, three are not on the wing before August – the silver-spotted skipper, the Scotch argus and the brown hairstreak – so that might have meant waiting until September for a full catalogue.

As the best time of the year to see many species – especially those which come into gardens, such as the red admiral, peacock and small tortoiseshell, – is over the next month, we are publishing our free 24-page guide today.

Next month, we will give details on how readers who have been carrying out their own butterfly hunts can enter our competition for seeing the most British species in a summer. The prize, you may remember, is a safari with Butterfly Conservation and The Independent to find the final species of the year to emerge, the brown hairstreak, beautiful but elusive.

The Independent's own total went from 48 to 52 on Thursday during a trip to Dorset in the expert company of Butterfly Conservation's chief executive, Dr Martin Warren. Our first success was to find the remaining three species of the blue family – the silver-studded blue, the chalkhill blue, and the brown argus (which is technically a blue despite its brown wings). To find Dorset's own butterfly, the tiny Lulworth skipper – found nowhere else in Britain – we trekked up on to the downs above the eponymous Cove, crowded with holidaymakers on a beautifully clear day.

Eventually, we came across one in the clumps of tor grass on the clifftop, and then we found a mating pair, so involved with each other that they could be gently picked up and placed on the top of your corresponden's finger, as the above picture shows.

As well as the three August species mentioned above, we are still seeking the rare and delicate wood white, the Essex skipper and the clouded yellow. Alongside the painted lady, this last is the other migrant in our 58 native species, and finding it will depend to some extent on chance. Finding the painted lady, however, is unlikley to be a chancey business this year – not with a billion of them about to emerge.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?