Big Butterfly Count: Members of British public turn scientists as survey gets under way

Nation's biggest count runs from 19 July to August 10

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The Independent Online

The nation’s biggest butterfly count is officially underway, with this summer set to be a bumper season for the winged insects.

Over the coming month thousands of people are expected to take part in the Big Butterfly Count, which runs from Saturday, 19 July, to 10 August.

The survey of Britain’s various butterflies and day-flying moths launched in 2010 with the express aim of helping us to assess the health of our environment.

Celebrity backers include esteemed naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who called on the Great British public to spend 15 minutes counting butterflies in their local area.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme ahead of the launch, he said the count was an “invaluable” contribution to science.

The summer is chosen to carry out the count because most butterflies are at the adult stage of their lifecycle and so more likely to be seen out and about.


As a general rule, butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent “biodiversity indicators”, according to survey leaders the Butterfly Conservation charity.

Richard Fox, Surveys Manager for the charity told the Guardian he thought the signs were “very good” for butterflies this year.

“Many species in Britain did well last year and generally in Britain we’ve had good weather this year so we’ve seen successful and big emergences [of butterflies],” he added.

Records of butterflies counted are welcome from anywhere, be it in parks, at school, in fields or in the garden.

To carry out your count, spend 15 minutes during bright and preferably sunny weather and set yourself up in a fixed position.

From there, count the maximum number of species that you can see at a single time. For example, seeing three Red Admirals together on a bush should be recorded as three.

If you see one, just record it as one. This is to make sure you don’t count the same butterfly more than once.

The numbers will help naturalists to identify trends in species and plan against extinction, as well as help us to better understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.

Click here for more information about the Big Butterfly Count.