Counting Butterflies

, 25 July 2011

Author Kathy Green

common blue / Kathy Green

Having read Jess Price’s blog on butterflies, I was wondering how many butterflies will actually flutter by and how many people will take the trouble to count the butterflies fluttering by in the Big Butterfly Count being run by Butterfly Conservation up until July 31? Similar to birds, butterflies are a key indicator as to the health of the environment and a nationwide survey carried out by the public in ‘ordinary’ places is one of the best ways to get an overall picture of their numbers and distribution. It only takes fifteen minutes and an identification chart of the most common butterflies can be downloaded from the website www.bigbutterfly where there is a great deal more information.

Over the past few years my own garden has seen a dramatic decline in many butterfly species. This is despite having four of the top five nectar plants (buddleia, verbena bonariensis, perennial wallflower, lavender, marjoram) recommended by Butterfly Conservation plus many, many more which are equally as good and, just as important, a continuous supply of various caterpillar food plants – yes, this includes nettles! Some butterflies have faired better than others and these are mainly the meadow species such as meadow brown and gatekeeper. Last year in particular was a marvellous year for the common blue and it was a sheer delight to see so many of them drifting languidly over the long grass on still summer days. In the evening they would come to rest in loose colonies, heads down, along the grass stems with many clustering together, jostling for the best place on favoured seedheads. I am glad I took the time to really appreciate this wonderful spectacle because it has not, as yet, been repeated here this year.

So, on the next warm, sunny day, why not take part in the Big Butterfly Count. Wander out into the garden, park, piece of waste ground or the wider countryside and have a wonderfully peaceful fifteen minutes counting butterflies – after all, they may not be there next year.

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