Wet spring devastates butterfly population

Populations of Britain's common garden butterflies appear to have collapsed this summer in the aftermath of the record spring rainfall, scientists are warning.

Well-loved species such as the red admiral, peacock, small tortoiseshell and painted lady, which normally would be prominent in gardens in hot weather, are completely missing in many places, according to the charity Butterfly Conservation.

The organisation's chief executive, Dr Martin Warren said: "We think this may be the worst ever summer for the garden species. Because of the hot weather, people are now out looking for butterflies, and they're telling us they're seeing nothing. For many people this will be the year of no butterflies. It is unprecedented."

The collapse in numbers follows the wettest April-to-June period ever recorded in the UK, and there are fears that climate change could mean regularly wet summers.

"The problem concerns the period this spring when many species emerged," Dr Warren said. "The crucial time was April and early May, when we had record rainfall and virtually no sun at all – when they couldn't lay any eggs, and a lot of the adults would have perished. They are totally reliant on sunshine to lay their eggs.

"This is the third summer in succession which has been atrocious for butterflies," he added. "These extreme weather events seem to be getting more frequent and we fear they will further suppress butterfly populations which are already declining."

Butterfly Conservation is inviting people across the country to spend 15 minutes recording the number of butterflies in any given place and report their findings via www.bigbutterflycount.org.

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