Britain's butterflies in trouble due to wet weather


Michael McCarthy
Thursday 28 June 2012 12:26

Some of Britain's butterflies and moths are experiencing a terrible season because of the unrelenting wet weather, experts said yesterday.

Butterflies such as the marsh fritillary, the black hairstreak, the common blue and Britain's most endangered butterfly species, the high brown fritillary, are all in much lower numbers than normal, said Richard Fox, surveys manager for the charity Butterfly Conservation.

The situation with moths was even worse, Mr Fox said, with only tiny numbers being found in moth traps.

His colleague Mark Parsons said: "It's probably the worst spring and early summer ever for moths."

Butterflies and moths suffer in cold and wet weather because they mate and feed less regularly. The warnings came as Met Office figures showed that June is set to follow April as one of the wettest months on record in the UK,

Figures up to 24 June – last Sunday – show that the country as a whole had received 122.3mm of rain, making this month already the third-wettest June in the national rainfall record, which goes back to 1910. The June average is 72.6mm.

The only wetter Junes came in 2007, when 136.2mm fell in an unprecedented period of downpours, and in 1912.

There has been some suggestion that the recent rain is part of a phenomenon known as the "European monsoon" – when westerly winds return strongly from the Atlantic in June, after a weakening in the late spring. The Met Office says this is an ill-defined phenomenon. A spokesman said: "It is quite difficult to say that the 'westerly winds are returning' this year as they never really left."

Nearly three-quarters of UK butterfly species have declined in numbers over the past decade due to a fall in suitable habitats, according to research by the Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology.

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