Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Fluttering Away?

All the signs of summer are around this week. The smell of BBQ's, the sound of lawn mowers and lots and lots of butterflies. I remember seeing quite a few back at the start of April but since then these flying gems of colour seemed to be hiding, but not anymore.

I'm glad I've been seeing more butterflies because this weekend is the start of Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count. In its third year now this is the biggest butterfly survey in the world (I wonder how many butterfly counts exist?) and last year there were 223,000 butterflies and day-flying moths counted.

Butterflies are amazing. Painted ladies take six generations to make a 9,000 mile migration from sub-Saharan Africa to the Arctic circle and some of them spend the summer fluttering around in our gardens here in the UK. All that travel, navigation and perseverance from a creature with a brain the size of a pin head. But like the rest of the nation's wildlife butterflies are facing stormy times ahead.

The State of Nature report revealed that 72% of the UK's butterflies had decreased in the past ten years with common "garden" species declining by 24%. What would a summer be without red admirals, orange tips and peacock butterflies floating around the flowers? The large blue has been helped by dedicated conservation projects and is on the way to recovery but the familiar small tortoiseshell has declined by 77% in the past decade. Now we know the damage that has already been done, hopefully new conservation projects will be able to turn the tide on the huge loss of wildlife that our country is facing.

Each of us can play our part. Small tortoiseshells can be helped by growing (or leaving!) nettles around the edges of gardens as this is a favored site for the species. Planting butterfly friendly flowers will encourage many species into your garden which is nice but also provides a vital safe haven in an often otherwise barren landscape for these incredible creatures. And of course you should do the Big Butterfly Count.  It only takes 15 minutes and it's another great excuse to spend some time enjoying wildlife in the sun (as if you needed one). So between now and 11th August go and see which butterflies are fluttering near you.

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